König, A., Zeghari, R., Guerchouche, R., Tran, M. D., Bremond, F., Linz, N., Lindsay, H., Langel, K., Ramakers, I., Lemoine, P., Bultingaire, V., & Robert, P. (2021). Remote cognitive assessment of older adults in rural areas by telemedicine and automatic speech and video analysis: protocol for a cross-over feasibility study. BMJ Open, 11(9), 12.
Early detection of cognitive impairments is crucial for the successful implementation of preventive strategies. However, in rural isolated areas or so-called ‘medical deserts’, access to diagnosis and care is very limited. With the current pandemic crisis, now even more than ever, remote solutions such as telemedicine platforms represent great potential and can help to overcome this barrier. Moreover, current advances made in voice and image analysis can help overcome the barrier of physical distance by providing additional information on a patients’ emotional and cognitive state. Therefore, the aim of this study is to evaluate the feasibility and reliability of a videoconference system for remote cognitive testing empowered by automatic speech and video analysis.
Methods and analysis
60 participants (aged 55 and older) with and without cognitive impairment will be recruited. A complete neuropsychological assessment including a short clinical interview will be administered in two conditions, once by telemedicine and once by face-to-face. The order of administration procedure will be counterbalanced so half of the sample starts with the videoconference condition and the other half with the face-to-face condition. Acceptability and user experience will be assessed among participants and clinicians in a qualitative and quantitative manner. Speech and video features will be extracted and analysed to obtain additional information on mood and engagement levels. In a subgroup, measurements of stress indicators such as heart rate and skin conductance will be compared.
Ethics and dissemination
The procedures are not invasive and there are no expected risks or burdens to participants. All participants will be informed that this is an observational study and their consent taken prior to the experiment. Demonstration of the effectiveness of such technology makes it possible to diffuse its use across all rural areas (‘medical deserts’) and thus, to improve the early diagnosis of neurodegenerative pathologies, while providing data crucial for basic research. Results from this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals.