HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

Image - New Evaluation of Telephone Screening Test Increases Accessibility to Cognitive Assessment for Older Australians

As the Australian population ages, rapid and early detection of cognitive impairment and dementia will be of increasing benefit in reducing costs and improving health outcomes for older persons. To diagnose dementia early, individuals are usually screened by GPs and other health professionals to determine who should go on to more detailed testing. Telephone-based cognitive screens are cost-effective, time-efficient and more accessible for older persons than traditional face-to face testing. As such, they offer excellent opportunities for assessment of cognition in both research and clinical contexts. During these unprecedented times of a global pandemic, the importance of screening by telephone has never been greater.

CHeBA researcher Dr Adam Bentvelzen has been exploring the potential for a telephone-based cognitive screening test in the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study (MAS).

"The Modified Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS-M) was developed to test older persons for whom access to cognitive assessment is limited by distance, poor health, or cost," says Dr Bentvelzen.

In 2019, based on data provided by MAS participants from 2006-2008, Dr Bentvelzen examined the validity and normative properties of the TICS-M’s research and this research was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association (JAGS).

The paper was the most comprehensive assessment of the TICS-M to date, with a large, well-characterized sample of 617 persons, aged from 71 to 91 years recruited from the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

Dr Bentvelzen said the paper has several novel and clinically useful aspects, including validation of the TICS-M against comprehensive neuropsychological measures and the highly sensitive ACE-R cognitive screen.

The TICS-M was shown to predict the onset of dementia for 1 year and up to 5 years after testing.

The norming of this test is now possible using a convenient online calculator which can be found on the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing website.Clinicians are now able to add this validated tool to the armoury of tests that can be used by Australian Memory Clinic services during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Dr Bentvelzen hopes that this work can help improve the accuracy of telephone-based cognitive screening and decrease the barriers to accessibility and cost of assessing cognitive status in older persons.