Health tech could bridge the gap to help identify dementia earlier

  • Heath Tech
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      • New survey reveals that more than three quarters (77%) of British adults would be willing to access emerging health technologies to detect early signs of dementia as part of regular health checks
      • Over half (54%) of adults feel there was a delay between a loved one experiencing symptoms to receiving a dementia diagnosis
      • Almost half (48%) felt that they would have encouraged the person with dementia to visit the doctor at an earlier stage if health tech had been available to accurately detect the early symptoms of dementia

      The fourth annual AXA Health Tech & You State of the Nation online survey has revealed today, that more than three quarters (77%) of British adults (not currently diagnosed with dementia) would be willing to access emerging health technologies to detect early signs of dementia as part of regular health checks.

      With an urgent need to develop new and accurate diagnostic methods to detect the diseases that cause dementia, researchers across the world are exploring new technologies that could provide clues to the earliest stages of diseases like Alzheimer’s. The AXA Health Tech and You State of the National survey explored public attitudes to future health tech developments for the diagnosis of dementia.

      When presented with a range of possible health technologies that may be able to help detect early signs of dementia in future, of those willing to access emerging technologies, 87% would be willing to use eye tests, and 72% would wear a device that tracks movement patterns in everyday life. By contrast, only 30% would be willing to undergo a spinal tap test to take a fluid sample with a needle into the base of the spine, despite this method currently being used in research studies to identify early markers of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

      The findings of the YouGov online survey of over 2,000 GB adults, conducted by AXA PPP healthcare, coincides with the launch of the ‘Innovations in the Early Diagnosis of Dementia Award’ – a new category in the AXA Health Tech & You annual awards programme. In partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK, this category aims to identify the development of technology innovation and design that can support the diagnosis of diseases underpinning dementia.

      Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

      “Innovations in health technology that allow earlier and more accurate detection of diseases like Alzheimer’s could transform, not just speed up, dementia diagnosis and treatment.

      We desperately need new and better treatments for people with dementia but research so far suggests that future treatments will be most beneficial when given at the early stages of the diseases that cause dementia. Advances in diagnosis must accelerate at the same pace as the search for new dementia treatments.”

      Dr Routledge went on to say: “The barriers to diagnosis aren’t just technical and this survey shows that new technologies could drive changes in people’s attitudes towards visiting their doctor, or encouraging a loved one to, if they notice changes in their memory and thinking skills.”

      Delayed diagnosis

      With the willingness of the British population to adopt health technologies to detect early signs of dementia and with over half (54%) of adults surveyed feeling there was a delay between their experiencing symptoms and receiving a dementia diagnosis, it suggests health technology could help bridge this gap.

      The survey also shows that, of those who knew someone with dementia and felt that there was a delay in the diagnosis, the main reason for the delay was because the early signs were too gradual to notice (50% agreeing with this). The second highest (45%) was that the person experiencing the symptoms was reluctant to go a doctor. If health tech had been available to accurately detect the signs of dementia, almost half (48%) felt they would have encouraged this person to visit a doctor at an earlier stage.

      Young peoples’ perceptions

      Attitudes of young people towards emerging health technologies means that future generations may be much more open to new diagnostic technologies than people aged 55 and over today.

      Over a third (35%) of people aged 18-24 are concerned about their own likelihood of developing dementia, showing an early awareness of the condition despite being several decades away from being at risk. Over half (56%) of young people in this age group are also concerned about people close to them developing the condition.

      When it comes to using and relying on health technology in day-to-day life to help identify early symptoms of dementia without the guidance of a GP, the 18-24 age group is nearly twice as likely to do so compared to people who are 55 years of age and over: (21% vs 11%)
      Richard Cooper, Head of Digital at AXA PPP healthcare, states:  

      “The findings of the AXA Health Tech & You State of the Nation survey suggest that if health technology was available to accurately detect the early signs of dementia most people would be willing to use it.”

      “It is our aim to help identify such health tech that may be used to help detect the early signs and symptoms of dementia, we are therefore delighted to be partnering with Alzheimer’s Research UK on the Innovations in the Early Diagnosis of Dementia Award, and look forward to discovering ground-breaking innovations coming through this category,” added Cooper.

      The Innovations in the Early Diagnosis of Dementia Award is one of six categories for the Health Tech & You Awards programme 2018. For further information or to enter this category, please visit www.healthtechandyou.com. The closing date is Thursday 1 March 2018.

      The winners will be announced at an Awards evening in May 2018. Previous winners and finalists have benefitted through increased awareness, industry partnerships and funding opportunities.

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