While most of us use our iPads for browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, or playing Words With Friends, others actually put Apple’s popular tablet to good use. Cambridge Cognition, a U.K.-based company that delivers the world’s leading cognitive tests, has developed an app called CANTABmobile which helps doctors detect dementia in its earliest stages, when treatment is most beneficial.
CANTABmobile provides an easy to use memory test that assesses a patient’s short-term memory using a series of challenges, such as remembering a series of symbols. It takes less then ten minutes, and once the process is complete, the app delivers instant results with suggestions on how doctors should proceed with their diagnosis.
It’s that early detection that’s so important, because it allows doctors to begin treatment straight away, and means patients are more likely to be able to continue working and living independently.
Trials of the app have shown that it accurately distinguishes between normal, age-related memory problems and dementia. Dr John O’Loan, who has been testing the app at the Culcheth healthcare surgery in Cheshire, England, says that CANTABmobile’s results can be reassuring:
“Not everyone with memory problems has dementia,” he said.
“There are a small number of medical conditions – vitamin deficiencies or an underactive thyroid – that we check for if patients have problems with their memory.”
In the U.K., doctors currently use more traditional means to diagnose dementia. Using a pen and paper, they ask a patients a series of questions like the day’s date, and whether they can spell the word “world” backwards. Unsurprisingly, this method isn’t all that accurate.
CANTABmobile, however, is significantly more sensitive, and it can detect even mild cognitive impairment, which can indicate the onset of dementia. It’s so accurate that Michael Hurt, of Walsall NHS, hopes to introduce it to all GP surgeries in the area:
He said: “We might find that we get people through the system more quickly and more effectively because the screening tool is more accurate.
“And that’s better for GPs, hospital staff as well as the people receiving the test.”
Around 800,000 people in the U.K. are believed to have dementia, but only half have received a formal diagnosis.