10 key considerations when selecting a cognitive assessment platform in a clinical setting

When it comes to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognition-related conditions, a timely diagnosis is critical. As stated in a review published in BMC Neurology, when aiming to treat Alzheimer’s, the net benefit was reduced by approximately 17 percent for every year that intervention was delayed.

This is why the American Academy of Neurology recommends physicians use a validated assessment tool. By doing so, you will be able to improve primary care and better track a patient’s cognitive status across time. You may access the latest practice guideline for clinicians here.

If you have not utilized the benefits associated with a cognitive assessment platform or are looking for a more effective alternative, here is what you need to look for in terms of critical components.

1. Digital

The most commonly used neurocognitive screening tests include the Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) exam, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).

While these tools are able to distinguish impaired individuals from their healthy counterparts, they are verbally administered by a physician or test administrator, with responses and scores recorded with pen and paper. When integrated into a physician assessment, the tools may be time-consuming, and the need of a test administrator may increase expenses but add no additional reimbursement.

Screening tools that can be administered on a computer or tablet offer several advantages including elimination of potential practice effects, automated administration and scoring of the test, and automatic integration with electronic medical records.

2. Automated

Automation removes bias from the test taker and the test administrator, ensuring that the test is always administered the way it was intended to and that you can be confident in the results.

3. Short and quick

Although many of the tests that are currently available take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete, this can be stressful for someone with cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, this can lead to frustration, reduced compliance, and longer testing times. Based on the available technology, an assessment should not take more than 15 minutes to complete. This will save you time and significantly optimize operational efficiency.

4. Comprehensive

Although a screening tool should be fast and easy-to-use, it must also be comprehensive. You should be able to test various cognitive domains, including memory, cognitive processing, executive function, reaction time and visual attention; clinical decision support should be provided; care planning strategies should be offered, and test results should be accessible on-the-spot.

5. Fun and easy-to-use

Careful design and ease of use should be made a priority in the development of digital assessment interfaces. A cognitive assessment platform that is straightforward and includes self-guided instructions will allow patients to complete assessments on their own with little to no help from staff.

6. Backed by science

Of course, any claims that are made should be backed by science and clinical research. It is important to verify that there is enough published research to make such claims. Has the FDA cleared the platform in question? This ensures the safety, security, and overall efficacy of the platform itself.

7. Scalable

When selecting an assessment platform, make sure it is capable of meeting your growing needs. As your practice grows and your patient volume increases, scalability is crucial.

8. Secure

Patient data must be secure, which is why the platform you use must be HIPAA-compliant. This will ensure that all sensitive patient data is protected, which in turn, will protect your practice.

9. Test-retest reliability

Be sure that the platform produces consistent results based on prior testing. If a platform is able to produce results that fluctuate minimally when retested, it is an ideal choice.

10. Reimbursable

Cognitive testing is essential to patient care, and doctors should get paid for it. Choose an assessment tool that increase your revenues; one that is reimbursable by insurance. This will expand the number of patients who are able to benefit from such a tool and in turn, support the long-term success of your practice.

Dementia can be challenging to identify and diagnose. That is why physicians and clinicians require a reliable assessment tool. If you’re currently a primary care physician or neurologist, it is critical that you seek the best possible digital cognitive assessment platform for both your practice and patients.