Use of brief screening tools can be useful in ruling out problems or in identifying problems or symptoms that need more investigation. Screeners for cognition and behavioral health are important tools for managing the health of seniors. 

Cognitive Screening Tools

Either during a routine visit or in the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit, a brief screen can help detect cognitive difficulties. 

Many clinicians use informal methods, often taught by mentors, which use simple questions or observations to assess cognition. However, more and more clinicians have adopted formally validated screening tools.

Screening tools commonly used during patient visits include the Mini-Mental, MOCA, and Mini-Cog©. The Mini-Cog© is often used in the Annual Wellness Visit, as it is brief and easy to incorporate into the visit. 

If indications of cognitive difficulty are detected, a digital cognitive assessment platform, such as BrainCheck, can be a logical and practical next step. BrainCheck assessments are reimbursable events that can be administered by office staff or a technician. The detection of cognitive difficulties can establish medical necessity for a billable neurocognitive assessment. 

BrainCheck offers availability of immediate, on-demand administration. This can be a very practical option prior to the referral for full neuropsychological assessment. Delays in finding an available neuropsychologist, costs, and burden to patients are important considerations to contrast with BrainCheck’s easy-to-use, validated platform.

Behavioral Screening Tools

On the behavioral side, tools such as the GAD-7, PHQ-9, and Geriatric Depression Scale can aid greatly in detecting psychological complications or conditions. 

Depression and anxiety are common in individuals with cognitive impairment and there is compelling evidence that depression in particular may be a precursor symptom for eventual dementia risk. 

At the same time, depression and anxiety can manifest in complaints such as memory lapses, inability to concentrate, and slowed or effortful thinking and problem solving in individuals without detectable cognitive impairment. Combining cognitive and behavioral assessment tools can help the clinician separate neurological and functional factors. 

Another important note: in the elderly, major depression can have measurable impact on cognitive performance (“pseudo-dementia”). Vigorously treating patients’ depression often results in positive changes in cognition, as well as mood. 

BrainCheck Seamlessly Integrates Assessments and Screeners

As a rapid, repeatable assessment platform, BrainCheck offers both cognitive and behavioral assessments and screeners. Used together, they can establish baseline functioning and track progress or disease progression, enhancing individualization of care. 

With the introduction of our BrainCheck Protocols feature, an array of screening tools can be seamlessly integrated with our standard and extended memory batteries. Within a single platform, BrainCheck allows physicians to gain a more comprehensive picture of their patients overall cognitive health.

Learn more about the science behind BrainCheck >>


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About the author

Robert Cuyler, PhD


Robert Cuyler is a clinical psychologist with decades of clinical, management and consulting experience. He is a Clinical Advisor at BrainCheck and the chief clinical officer of Palo Alto Health Sciences. He previously served as the CEO of JSA Health Telepsychiatry and clinical advisor to MDLive/Breakthrough Behavioral. Dr. Cuyler received his Ph.D. in psychology from Louisiana State University and his postdoctoral fellowship from the Menninger Foundation.

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