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New app widens opportunities for dementia assessment

Posted on July 9th 2014

A team of clinicians from Plymouth and Sydney, Australia, have today launched ACEmobile - a free-to-use app to support the assessment of dementia.

The development of ACEmobile has been a collaboration between Professor John Hodges (Neuroscience Research Australia), Dr Rupert Noad (Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust), Dr Craig Newman and Professor John Zajicek (Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry) and has been supported by funding from a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Programme Grants for Applied Research grant, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South West Peninsula (also known as PenCLAHRC).

ACEmobile is the first of its kind, an iPad-based tool that supports doctors and nurses to conduct dementia assessments. Designed by clinicians for clinicians, ACEmobile also collects secure and anonymised data to allow the team to improve our understanding of dementia and ability to detect it earlier.

Formed as a not-for-profit venture, the clinical team who developed ACEmobile intend this to be the first step in supporting the growth of an international community of like-minded scientists and healthcare professionals eager to support the project in developing and testing new, and more sensitive, computerised instruments to help in the early diagnosis and evaluation of medical treatments for dementia.

ACEmobile is currently an iPad-based tool that guides the user through the Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination (ACE-III). The ACE-III is one of the most popular and commonly-used paper and pencil screening tools for dementia. The app removes the need for clinicians to learn the ACE-III manual and it also automatically calculates patients' scores and creates a report to go into their medical records.

The creators have designed the app to make dementia assessment easier and more reliable for NHS staff and health professionals around the world. The research team will collect anonymised information from each assessment conducted using the app, with a plan to improve the sensitivity of ACEmobile for earlier dementia diagnosis and in assessing the effect of new medications as they are tested: one of the major factors holding back the development of new treatments for dementia is the relative insensitivity of currently used instruments.

The developers of the tool are working to form a charity, ACEmobile Community, which will fund the growth of the project into the future.  Funding will be generated from potential donations from supporters or commercial users with shared hopes for the future, as well as research grants.

Dr Rupert Noad, Consultant Neuropsychologist at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, commented: "ACE-III is a great assessment tool, but as with many such tools which are paper-based, it runs the risk of human error and miscalculation. By producing the ACEmobile app we have reduced this risk and created a tool which can be used by the wider dementia care team. Dementia is applying increasing pressure on health care services around the world and is set to continue to do so - by creating a reliable, accurate and easy to use application of ACE-III, and making it free of charge, we hope that the future of the ACEmobile project can play a role in earlier and more accurate diagnoses."

You can read more about the ACEmobile app and download from their webite: www.acemobile.org. You can read more about PenCLAHRC’s involvement in the project here.

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