A team of researchers and clinicians have developed a new simple scoring system which they hope can help GPs better determine a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The scoring system is part of a new tool called QuoCo which combines existing testing methods and then looks at them over a period of time.
This contrasts with other tests which look to directly diagnose the disease through an analysis of blood samples or brain scans.
“Similar to ‘growth charts’ used in pediatrics, the QuoCo cognitive charts allow physicians to plot cognitive performance of any patient based on age, education and score on the Mini-Mental State Examination, and track cognitive change over time,” says Dr. Robert Laforce Jr., Université Laval and CHU de Quebec.
The tool has been specifically designed for GPs and family doctors as it relies on gathering data over a long period of time, giving these doctors a unique understanding of their patients.
If used correctly, the team believe that the tool could “allow physicians to intervene and potentially treat an older adult who ‘fell off’ the curve.”
Writing about their new creation in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors write: “Dementing illnesses have reached pandemic levels,”
“Early detection of cognitive impairment remains our best approach to disease management before irreversible brain damage occurs. Family physicians are in a key position to contribute to this approach; however, they are ill-equipped.”
So how does it work? Well quite simply it involves combining a number of existing testing methods and rather than having to look at them individually it creates a formula that adds them together and results in a clear score that can be tracked over time.
While clearly a very effective tool, some experts have pointed out that the test does come with its own limitations which is that it can only truly be effective for those communities that have a long-established GP surgery and with patients who are willing to continually take the test.
Dr. Andrew Costa, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University explains, “the widespread benefits derived from cognitive charts for any screening examination rests on the assumption that at-risk patients are being screened systematically over time and that cognitive test results are communicated, or can be readily referenced by, physicians. We seem to be some distance away from that reality.”