Research project

Chronic Pain Identification Through Using Electronic Records (C-PICTURE)

Development and validation of an algorithm to identify people with chronic pain through primary care-based records.

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Start date

July 2023

Completion date

June 2025



Funding under review

Chronic pain (pain lasting >3 months) is increasingly recognised as a significant public health issue and clinical priority for Scottish Government. However, because there exists no way to reliably identify those with chronic pain, an accurate economic analysis of its burden cannot be undertaken. The negative impact chronic pain has on individuals, their families, their communities, and the healthcare system makes it important that resource allocation, and prevention and management of this condition are guided by the best available research and evidence. Accurately identifying people with chronic pain in large population-level datasets, especially with routinely collected healthcare data, is a prerequisite to better understand chronic pain and its impact. Reliable, robust methodology is needed to accurately understand the distribution, determinants, and impact of chronic pain, for policy design, service development and research. Despite this need, currently there is no simple, reliable way to routinely identify people living with chronic pain in Scotland. This is a major problem: without large (and expensive) bespoke studies, we cannot routinely identify who has chronic pain in the community where most patients are managed, what their needs are, and how needs are best met.

The core aim of C-PICTURE, therefore, is to test, refine and validate a chronic pain case identification algorithm, comprising a series of diagnostic codes and prescribing data, which could be used to this end.  The initial iteration of the algorithm will be run in general practice (GP) software systems, which will generate the ‘test’ dataset.  Thereafter, the accuracy of the initial iteration of the algorithm will be assessed, and the algorithm will be refined considering findings from survey and qualitative work with patients registered with these GP practices.  The final iteration of the algorithm will be assessed, using statistical techniques, to ensure its accuracy in identifying people living with chronic pain.

Once validated, the algorithm, could be used to understand the prevalence of chronic pain in Scotland (and internationally), influence policy development and service planning, improve pain management and outcomes for people with chronic pain and facilitate more robust future research studies in pain medicine by reducing sampling error.


Project type

Research project