Introduction Optimal identification of subtle cognitive impairment in the primary care setting requires a very brief tool combining (a) patients- subjective impairments, (b) cognitive testing, and (c) information from informants. The present study developed a new, very quick and easily administered case-finding tool combining these assessments ('BrainCheck') and tested the feasibility and validity of this instrument in two independent studies.
Methods We developed a case-finding tool comprised of patient-directed (a) questions about memory and depression and (b) clock drawing, and (c) the informant-directed 7-item version of the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE). Feasibility study: 52 general practitioners rated the feasibility and acceptance of the patient-directed tool. Validation study: An independent group of 288 Memory Clinic patients (mean ± SD age = 76.6 ± 7.9, education = 12.0 ± 2.6; 53.8% female) with diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment (n = 80), probable Alzheimer's disease (n = 185), or major depression (n = 23) and 126 demographically matched, cognitively healthy volunteer participants (age = 75.2 ± 8.8, education = 12.5 ± 40% female) partook. All patient and healthy control participants were administered the patient-directed tool, and informants of 113 patient and 70 healthy control participants completed the very short IQCODE.
Results Feasibility study: General practitioners rated the patient-directed tool as highly feasible and acceptable. Validation study: A Classification and Regression Tree analysis generated an algorithm to categorize patient-directed data which resulted in a correct classification rate (CCR) of 81.2% (sensitivity = 83.0%, specificity = 79.4%). Critically, the CCR of the combined patient- and informant-directed instruments (BrainCheck) reached nearly 90% (that is 89.4%; sensitivity = 97.4%, specificity = 81.6%).
Conclusion A new and very brief instrument for general practitioners, 'BrainCheck', combined three sources of information deemed critical for effective case-finding (that is, patients- subject impairments, cognitive testing, informant information) and resulted in a nearly 90% CCR. Thus, it provides a very efficient and valid tool to aid general practitioners in deciding whether patients with suspected cognitive impairments should be further evaluated or not ('watchful waiting').