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Emory rolls out digital 'clock-drawing test' to detect Alzheimer's, other types of dementia

A test that would usually take 30 to 40 minutes can now be done in 5 to 10 minutes digitally.

ATLANTA — Emory Healthcare is working to implement a test used to detect Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The clock-drawing test, which is typically part of a larger Mini-Cog test, is done to determine if someone has the disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. 

The test requires patients to draw a circle clock with a specific time. While the test is usually done on paper, new technology, through a collaboration with Linus Health, is allowing Emory to use an iPad

According to Emory, artificial intelligence software helps detect subtle movements during the digital test that wouldn't normally be seen with the eye during the paper test.  

Dr. Kayci Vickers, a neuropsychologist and Emory instructor, believes the test will help doctors detect Alzheimer's early on, especially when tests can be done every year during an annual exam.  

“Maybe every year when [patients] do their yearly exam, they're doing these cognitive tests as well,” Vickers said. “And [medical professionals] have that kind of baseline that they can compare to over time in a way where it's less invasive, it's quicker, it's less burden on the patient.” 

Now, a test that would usually take 30 to 40 minutes can now be done in 5 to 10 minutes digitally. 

Emory has already started rolling out the tests at its primary care clinic with hopes to expand.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Emory was making improvements to the test. It has been updated to clarify that Emory is only deploying the test at its clinic.

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