We need better, faster, and easier tools to detect cognitive issues in older Americans.
Your brain performance follows an arc. As you age, your cognitive abilities decline. But when is decline natural and when is it something more serious?
RC21X has developed a web-based brain performance monitoring tool that can be taken from the comfort of home without the need for a clinician. Users play a series of video games (webified versions of pen-and-paper tests and tabletop apparatuses that have been used for more than 50 years to test cognition) that screen all parts of the brain. Each 12-minute session captures more than 3,000 data points and produces a unique Brain Performance Profile. Also in development is a mobile version of the tool (for smartphones and tablets) that cuts that time to 6 minutes.
Among the areas checked are recall memory as users are asked to remember pictures and sounds. There are modules to test reaction time, diligence, long-term memory, information processing and executive function. Other modules test balance and neuromotor function.
Regular cognitive screening with RC21X can quickly measure cognitive decline related to a number of areas, including early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia - where early access to medication can delay the onset of symptoms by as much as a year and can give families time to plan for the future.
But perhaps even more importantly, regular cognitive screening can help physicians and family members identify when older patients are not taking medications as prescribed, often called noncompliance or adherence issues.
The statistics are staggering:
• Patients not taking medications as they have been prescribed in the course of care is problematic among the elderly and those with multiple chronic conditions. (Munger, Van Tassell, & LaFleur, 2007). Poor compliance is estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system $290 billion each year.
• Nearly 10 percent of hospital admissions are caused by poor medication compliance.
• Not properly following prescriptions leads to approximately 125,000 deaths per year.
Especially problematic are patients being treated for kidney disease, where more than 35 percent do not follow care plans, often leading to dialysis or transplant surgery. In these cases, as well as with other chronic conditions, declines in cognition can be a sign of noncompliance. With kidney disease, for example, toxins in the blood will affect brain performance.
Getting patients back on their plans can improve outcomes. Users can take RC21X sessions weekly. After four sessions, they develop a normal range. Each subsequent session compares their results to what is normal for them—and only them. Armed with objective data, users and their families can quickly monitor their brain performance and identify signs of decline early. This can be particularly helpful when users and their families are not in the same household. Family members can continually check up on their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents from a distance. That information can also be shared with physicians. Should performance begin to slip, caregivers can be alerted and interventions made as soon as possible. Additionally, self-assessment engages patients in following their care plans.
With RC21X, we believe we can do a better job of cognitive screening and get patients the care they need.
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