Remote neuropsychology tests for children shown effective

September 24, 2020

Administering neuropsychology evaluations to children online in the comfort of their own homes is feasible and delivers results comparable to tests traditionally performed in a clinic, a new study led by UT Southwestern researchers and Children's Health indicates. The finding, published online this month in the , could help expand access to specialists and reduce barriers to care, particularly as the popularity of telemedicine grows during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients with a variety of neurological disorders require periodic neuropsychological evaluations to track their cognition, academic skills, memory, attention, and other variables. Typically, these tests are done in clinics, often by specialists in these disorders.

However, explains

Research on adults has shown that these evaluations can be done effectively, with the examiner and patient in different rooms. However, those tests were conducted in controlled clinic or laboratory settings rather than patients' homes, where distractions and technological glitches could confound results. Plus, none of the earlier studies involved children, a population that has its own unique challenges.

To evaluate whether teleneuropsychology evaluations could be effectively performed with children at home, Harder, along with

Each child received the same 90-minute neuropsychology battery twice - once at home and once at the clinic - spaced apart by about 16 days. Half the group received the home test first; the other half got the clinic test first.

For the home test, children received a packet of testing materials prior to their test date and, if they did not have a computer or tablet at home, borrowed a tablet from the researchers' office in advance. For both tests, parents or other caregivers left the room, allowing the patient and researcher to interact one on one.

The home-based environment had unique challenges compared with the clinic, Greenberg explains: Any distraction, from a barking dog to a doorbell, or technological glitches, such as a poor internet connection, could invalidate the results. While distractions and technology problems occurred intermittently during remote sessions, these were typically fleeting and generally did not interfere with testing sessions.

When the researchers compared the results obtained from the home- and clinic-based tests, no significant differences were found.

But it's not enough to show that the home-based testing is comparable to the clinic, Harder notes - patients and their caregivers must also be willing and interested in remote testing to make it feasible. To that end, the researchers gave each patient and their caregivers a survey to assess their level of satisfaction with the videoconference-based test. The vast majority (94 percent of caregivers and 90 percent of participants) responded that they were satisfied with home-based testing. If given a choice between remote or in-person, most indicated no preference.

Teleneuropsychology testing still needs to be evaluated over a broader age range and array of conditions and measures before it becomes a staple in the field, Harder says. But having this as an option could eventually help children avoid having to travel far distances to access specialists or avoid exposure from in-person visits - a boon during the era of COVID-19, she adds.

"This model could allow these young and often medically fragile children to stay put but still receive the care that they need," Harder says.
-end-
Other researchers who contributed to this study include Joy Neumann, Morgan McCreary, and C. Munro Cullum, all of UTSW; Ana Hernandez of Children's Medical Center; and Cole Hague, of Boston Children's Hospital.

This work was supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Children's Trust.

Greenberg is a Distinguished Teaching Professor and a Cain Denius Scholar in Mobility Disorders. Cullum holds the Pam Blumenthal Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Psychology.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution's faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 23 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,500 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 3 million outpatient visits a year.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.