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Psychometric Evaluation of a Tablet-Based Tool to Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: Mixed Methods Study.

BACKGROUND: With the rapid aging of the global population, the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia is anticipated to surge worldwide. MCI serves as an intermediary stage between normal aging and dementia, necessitating more sensitive and effective screening tools for early identification and intervention. The BrainFx SCREEN is a novel digital tool designed to assess cognitive impairment. This study evaluated its efficacy as a screening tool for MCI in primary care settings, particularly in the context of an aging population and the growing integration of digital health solutions.

OBJECTIVE: The primary objective was to assess the validity, reliability, and applicability of the BrainFx SCREEN (hereafter, the SCREEN) for MCI screening in a primary care context. We conducted an exploratory study comparing the SCREEN with an established screening tool, the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment (Qmci) screen.

METHODS: A concurrent mixed methods, prospective study using a quasi-experimental design was conducted with 147 participants from 5 primary care Family Health Teams (FHTs; characterized by multidisciplinary practice and capitated funding) across southwestern Ontario, Canada. Participants included health care practitioners, patients, and FHT administrative executives. Individuals aged ≥55 years with no history of MCI or diagnosis of dementia rostered in a participating FHT were eligible to participate. Participants were screened using both the SCREEN and Qmci. The study also incorporated the Geriatric Anxiety Scale-10 to assess general anxiety levels at each cognitive screening. The SCREEN's scoring was compared against that of the Qmci and the clinical judgment of health care professionals. Statistical analyses included sensitivity, specificity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability assessments.

RESULTS: The study found that the SCREEN's longer administration time and complex scoring algorithm, which is proprietary and unavailable for independent analysis, presented challenges. Its internal consistency, indicated by a Cronbach α of 0.63, was below the acceptable threshold. The test-retest reliability also showed limitations, with moderate intraclass correlation coefficient (0.54) and inadequate κ (0.15) values. Sensitivity and specificity were consistent (63.25% and 74.07%, respectively) between cross-tabulation and discrepant analysis. In addition, the study faced limitations due to its demographic skew (96/147, 65.3% female, well-educated participants), the absence of a comprehensive gold standard for MCI diagnosis, and financial constraints limiting the inclusion of confirmatory neuropsychological testing.

CONCLUSIONS: The SCREEN, in its current form, does not meet the necessary criteria for an optimal MCI screening tool in primary care settings, primarily due to its longer administration time and lower reliability. As the number of digital health technologies increases and evolves, further testing and refinement of tools such as the SCREEN are essential to ensure their efficacy and reliability in real-world clinical settings. This study advocates for continued research in this rapidly advancing field to better serve the aging population.


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