Virtual examinations provide early indications of dementia
It is very important to diagnose dementia as early as possible in order to provide the best possible care to patients. The dementia research project ‘Bavarian Digital Dementia Register’ (DigiDEM) led by FAU has adapted tests for dementia that are commonly used worldwide so that they can also be carried out online. The new testing methods have now been presented during an event called ‘Demenz und Digitalisierung – Neue Wege in Bayern’ (Dementia and Digitalisation – New Opportunities in Bavaria), which was opened by a speech from Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml in Nuremberg.
The test known as the mini mental state examination (MMSE) is one of the most well-known tests for dementia. Prof. Dr. med. Elmar Gräßel from Universitätsklinikum Erlangen explains why the digiDEM Bayern team changed the test to an online version. ‘This virtual dementia screening offers people who are perhaps apprehensive about going to the doctor easy access to the test and also protects them from potentially contracting coronavirus,’ says Gräßel. ‘The test cannot replace a medical diagnosis, but can provide an initial indication.’
Study: Not enough assistance online for those affected
The testing method is part of the digiDEM Bayern project. A survey was started in Bavaria among those affected by dementia in July to find out more about the care of people with dementia and their relatives. In addition, digiDEM Bayern will provide digital solutions such as online services for people with dementia and a so-called risk traffic light for the relatives who care for them. Just how urgently such services are required is shown in a study presented by Michael Reichold from FAU during the event. His online survey of service providers for people with dementia and the relatives who care for them shows that there is a major gap in the digital services provided. The aim of digiDEM Bayern is to close this gap.
digiDEM Bayern: online training, surveys and webinars
Prof. Dr. Peter Kolominsky-Rabas from FAU explained that the digital approach of the project has been extended even further due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic: ‘The social distancing measures and contact restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic magnified the demand for digital solutions for dementia patients. It was therefore very important to us to push the project forward and to protect our research partners and study participants in the best way possible at the same time.’ To do so, the team completely changed the way it works.
‘We offered live online training for our research partners. We also started the ‘Science Watch LIVE’ webinar series. Our webinars and our monthly newsletters not only provide information that is up to date, but also information from dementia research that is scientifically sound and checked for quality.’ Transferring knowledge and exchanging information with people who are interested in the project is also a central component of digiDEM Bayern.
The digiDEM Bayern project
The aim of the ‘Digitales Demenzregister Bayern’ project or digiDEM Bayern for short is to improve the care provided to people with dementia in Bavaria and the relatives who care for them. digiDEM Bayern uses digital solutions: On the one hand, the project provides digital services for those affected and for those who would like to find out more. On the other, the project is setting up a dementia register for Bavaria in order to improve the long-term understanding of the condition. This involves collecting data about the care people with dementia receive and the situation of the relatives who care for them.
digiDEM Bayern comprises a consortium from FAU, represented by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health Technology Assessment and Public Health and the Chair of Medical Informatics, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, represented by the Centre for Health Service Research, and the Leading-Edge Cluster Medical Valley EMN.
digiDEM Bayern is being funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Public Health and Care Services and is part of Bavaria’s dementia strategy.