Johns Hopkins app offers quick, easy cognitive assessment of MS patients

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A tablet-based application developed by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers has been shown to be a reliable and fast method for assessing the cognitive function of patients with multiple sclerosis.

A study of 100 patients from the University of Washington Medicine found that the app is comparable to the paper-based Brief International Cognitive Assessment for Multiple Sclerosis (BICAMS), with no significant differences in results between the paper and tablet-based measures.

However, the advantage of the app—called iCAMS—is that it is significantly more efficient, saving the user 40 percent more time and eliminating the need for paper-based record forms, according to a study published in the International Journal of MS Care.

“Results suggest that using the iCAMS app may make cognitive assessments of multiple sclerosis more convenient in a clinic setting, and therefore will be used more often to identify learning and memory problems,” says lead author Meghan Beier, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

At the same time, researchers note that the tests in iCAMS are not identical to the paper-based test. They used the BICAMS version of processing and visual learning tests. However, because of copyright issues, the team adopted a comparable alternative subtest to assess verbal learning ability.

Beier points out that as many as 65 percent of MS patients experience cognitive problems. The difficulty, she contends, is that paper-based testing tools are time consuming and that specially trained psychometrists must administer the tests. In addition, a separate study revealed that just 8 percent of MS specialists are using MS-validated cognition assessment tools.

To address these issues, researchers converted the internationally validated BICAMS cognitive assessment tool for MS patients into an app. Further, iCAMS provides automatic prompts and written instructions for medical assistants so they can help patients more easily complete the assessment.

“Our goal is to reduce barriers for patients to receive the testing that may benefit their treatment and health through the use of digital technology,” says study co-author Abbey Hughes, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and of the study.

Going forward, researchers plan to conduct larger-scale testing of the app in more heterogeneous patient populations.

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