iPad app puts cognitive screening in the hands of MS patients



– A new computer tablet application puts cognitive screening literally in the hands of patients with multiple sclerosis.

The Multiple Sclerosis Performance Test (MSPT), created specifically for iPad, presents patients with four assessments that they can complete in a short time before any clinic visit, according to Stephen M. Rao, PhD, who helped develop the tool. After patients complete the test battery, the program translates their results into adjusted normative data and feeds them directly into the individual electronic medical record. When the clinic visit begins, everything is ready for the physician and patient to review together. The program not only provides a solid baseline assessment, but can also, over time, create a longitudinal profile of a patient’s cognitive status, and help to guide management decisions, Dr. Rao said at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

“About half of people with MS do have cognitive problems, which, above and beyond the physical problems, can result in major challenges with work, the ability to engage in social activities, and the need for personal assistance,” said Dr. Rao, who is the Ralph and Luci Schey Chair and director of the Schey Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging at the Cleveland Clinic. “But despite that, even comprehensive MS care centers rarely screen for cognitive dysfunction using objective neuropsychological tests.”

Time is the issue for most clinics, he said. Although the paper-and-pencil screening tools out there take only 10 minutes or so, most centers don’t have the luxury of carving out those extra moments or dedicating a staff member to administer the test and handle the data.

The MSPT attempts to sidestep the problem of time and manpower. In Dr. Rao’s center and the other 10 in the United States and Europe that now use the tool, patients simply arrive a bit early for their appointment and complete the three components: a structured patient history; the Neurological Quality of Life assessment; and an electronic adaptation of the MS Functional Composite.

It assesses cognition with a processing speed test based on the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, which has long been validated for MS patients. A contrast sensitivity test assesses visual acuity. A simple manual-dexterity test, in which patients move peg symbols into “holes,” tests upper extremity function, and a video-recorded walking speed test assesses lower extremity function.

The system was validated in 165 patients with MS and 217 healthy controls. It correlated well with the paper-and-pencil Symbol Digits Modalities Test, and correlated more highly than that test with cerebral T2 lesion load (MS Journal. 2017;23:1929-37).


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