WASHINGTON – Traveling to VA testing centers can be difficult for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. What if, instead, the testing could be done remotely?

That’s what a study led by researchers from the Washington DC VAMC sought to find out.

Their study, published recently in the journal Multiple Sclerosis, evaluated the feasibility of remote cognitive assessment in patients with MS using the automated neuropsychological assessment metrics (ANAM-MS) and the symbol digit modalities test (SDMT).1

For the study, researchers randomized 24 patients meeting the McDonald criteria for MS to complete the live-in-office condition or a remote-in-office condition first, with all patients completing both sessions. A final remote-in-home testing session was then completed with 20 patients. Both remote sessions were proctored by a psychologist using a secure telehealth connection.

While scores on the live SDMT differed from scores in the two remote settings, summary scores on the ANAM-MS were similar across the three settings, the study found. Satisfaction with telehealth testing was high on the part of the examiner and patients, and each telehealth testing session saved more than $144.00 in travel costs and lost wages.

“This study demonstrated that valid results can be obtained when evaluating patients remotely using ANAM-MS,” the authors conclude. “Some differences were noted for the SDMT that suggest that either specific norms or a different implementation approach may be needed for telehealth.”

1 Settle JR, Robinson SA, Kane R, Maloni HW, Wallin MT. Remote cognitive assessments for patients with multiple sclerosis: a feasibility study. Mult Scler. 2015 Jan 12. pii: 1352458514559296. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25583842.