New Smartphone App to Help Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer’s
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease isn’t easy. Because of the complexity of the disease, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the diagnosis process.
With each visit, doctors need to ask hundreds of questions about the patient to collect every piece of information that could be used as clues for the diagnosis. This makes dementia evaluations very lengthy and exceedingly inconvenient for the patient as well as the doctor.
The worst aspect of this is the time required to collect all of the necessary information, which leaves significantly less time for healthcare providers to counsel their patients once a diagnosis is made. Counseling and support are equally important for doctors because it helps patients understand their disease and know what comes next in terms of their treatment and lifestyle adjustments. This translates to greater autonomy and leads to better choices for both doctor and patient when it comes to selecting the right treatment.
Having little time to counsel patients is definitely a problem, especially at memory disorder clinics where elderly patients often have dementia. Dementia evaluations are among the lengthiest of appointments because there are hundreds of pertinent questions that need to be asked. On top of that, the tests used to evaluate cognitive function take a long time as well. It’s nearly impossible to do a good job completing all of these evaluations in a reasonable amount of time, let alone squeeze in the important discussions about the disease and the available treatments.
If doctors spend less time with their patients in gathering information, they could use their skills in a more effective way. The doctors have to discuss questions about the disease with their patients as well as explain to them the various treatment options so they can make the best choice for their health. To help medical professionals with this task, a new app has been created. Even before the patient sees the doctor, information is collected from the caregivers, and so a diagnosis can be completed rapidly and with confidence, and the doctors have time to explain to their patients the various treatment options. A research team from the Washington University School of Medicine designed this app. They belong to a group called Memento, and they came from various fields, pooling their talents to collaborate together and design this incredibly helpful app.
The tool used to create the app is a clinical dementia rating scale. The likelihood of the patients having dementia is evaluated by CDR. For this, six domains are used: memory, problem-solving ability, judgement, personal grooming, home life, and community involvements. Each answered question is used to correlate a specific score that determines the dementia risk. There are 60–100 questions related to the cognitive status and medical history of the patient, all of which aid in an accurate diagnosis.
However, the app cannot take the place of a doctor to make final a diagnosis since Alzheimer’s is a complex and elusive disease. A comprehensive evaluation is required, and from interview to test results, you can incorporate every cue. The app only helps the doctor reach a determination more quickly. It is of high quality, as it combines current medical knowledge with skilled software programming. The app is visually attractive and user-friendly, too, so that caretakers can have an enjoyable experience while using it. It is only meant to help doctors, not replace them; by streamlining appointments, the life of both doctor and patient can be made easier. At memory clinics, the app can help improve doctor-patient interactions, which ensures that every patient gets the counseling they need to make knowledgeable decisions about treatment.
The app is currently being trialed at the Home Medical School of Memory Diagnostic Centre. For six months, caregivers fill in the app’s questionnaire before coming for appointments. After making a diagnosis, a dementia specialist will see the patient while at the same time, the information gathered from the app will be used by another dementia specialist to confirm the diagnosis. The diagnostics assessments are then compared, and the duration of time required to read and use the report will be recoded. Thus, it will be known exactly how much time is saved by the app. If the app is indeed useful, the developers expect to incorporate it into other neurology clinics. To introduce this app for its widespread utility, the group plans to collaborate with the Alzheimer’s Association.