App launched to speed up dementia diagnosis

Clinicians in Plymouth, UK and Sydney, Australia have developed an iPad app aimed at helping healthcare professionals to diagnose dementia.

Posted on 9th July 2014

Clinicians from Plymouth, UK and Sydney, Australia, have developed an app aimed at improving the diagnosis of dementia. The app is based on the widely-used Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination III (ACE-III) test and is free to use for clinicians in the NHS and around the world. The iPad app, called ACEmobile, will be made available to health professionals on 9 July 2014.

The ACE-III assessment is usually conducted using pencil and paper, and requires the staff using it to have read and understood a manual. The ACEmobile app will guide healthcare staff through the use of the test, removing the need for the manual and allowing more staff to use the assessment with confidence.

The test is designed to collect and securely store anonymised data. This data will allow for the assessment and improvement of the test to better understand dementia and how to make a diagnosis. The app also automatically calculates the scores from the test and will create a report for the patient’s medical records.

The developers hope that the app will represent a move towards the growth of an international community of healthcare professionals willing to help with the improvement and development of new, computerised tools to aid dementia diagnosis. They also hope that it will shorten waiting times and that future improvements to the app may eventually lead to its use to assess the effectiveness of new dementia treatments.

The app, funded in part by the NIHR, has been tested by groups of clinicians in Devon and Sydney. More information can be found at the website http://www.acemobile.org/

Dr Laura Phipps, Science Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“Dementia affects an estimated 820,000 people in the UK and this number is rising. With more people visiting their doctor with memory concerns, healthcare professionals are under pressure to make an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible. Any system that can improve the reliability of diagnosis, as well as helping clinical staff to feel more confident in making assessments, should be welcomed.

“Dementia is difficult to diagnose accurately, especially in the early stages where it can be hard to know the underlying cause of memory problems. As the ACEmobile app is in a very early stage, it remains to be seen whether the information collected by the system can be used to improve diagnosis or test treatments in the future. This test is not designed for use by the general public and anyone who is concerned about their memory should consult their GP”.

Posted in Science news