One of the more challenging areas of healthcare diagnosis possibly lies in the field of mental health including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which may affect children as young as four.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated increase of 1 million in the number of children aged four to 17 with an ADHD diagnosis in 2007, compared with 2003. By 2007, basically one in 10 children in the U.S. was diagnosed with the neurobehavioral disorder with symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Yet, one of the limitations of the survey was that it was based on parental report - in other words parents had to recall correctly about the diagnosis and its severity.
Now, Pearson plc, a global education and publishing company with well-know brands like Financial Times and Penguin Random House, is keen to gain a foothold in the clinical assessment of ADHD and provide an objective tool that can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
In September, the company acquired BioBdx, the maker of the FDA-cleared Quotient ADHD test for an undisclosed sum.
“All too often physicians are in situations where they make a diagnosis on the basis of a very short clinical interview and maybe if they are lucky include some rating scales that are supplied by a parent or teacher,” said Travis Millman – VP, New Business and Innovation Group, at Pearson. ““The decision around diagnosis and treatment will be always with the clinician but it is our intention to bring a little more rigor and to provide the clinician with better information to support their diagnoses and treatment decisions.”
The test, shown in the video below, can be taken by children as young as 6. It involves wearing a headband with an infrared device and sitting in front of a computer screen that has been installed as well as Quotient’s tracking device to detect head movement. Anyone older than 13 will also wear a similar infrared device on their shins to track leg movement.
“The child sits in front of the computer, the band is a target that allows our system to track the movement of the child's head and body and that micromovement that's not really detected by the human eye is something that the machine can read and use in addition to measuring impulsivity and other key elements of the testing,” Millman explained.
During the test, target and non-targets are presented to the child/adult and certain actions or inactions are required. The test is shorter for children aged 6 to 13 and slightly longer for 14 through 55-year-olds, said Carrie Mulherin, VP, Marketing and Sales, with the Quotient Team at Pearson.
But the test aims to quantify the level of impulsivity or inattention and hyperactivity that marks the child/adult hampered by ADHD.
“The test is not particularly fun or exciting but it really is a fantastic measure of whether a child is able to sustain attention,” Millman said.
The reports the test generate can help clinicians diagnose the disorder and then prescribe medications. But the test can also tell whether the treatment plan is having the desired effect, Millman and Mulherin declared.
Fair enough, but how can a software test tell whether a drug regimen is working?
That’s because after an initial diagnosis is made and medications administered, the test can be administered again and again, to see whether the child or adult’s attention is improving.
“The test is intended to be used serially … and the real benefits of this system starts to come into focus when you see the symptoms of the child reduced or not reduced and then take further action based on that information,” Millman explained.
In other words, the medication dosage may be adjusted if the second or third tests don’t produce the desired result of reduced symptoms.
“The American Psychiatric Association's guidelines actually state that with respect to medication initiation that the efficacy of a stimulant can be reassessed in three to seven days,” Mulherin noted.
Under Pearson, the Quotient test will be marketed not only to neurologists, child psychiatrists and developmental pediatricians as BioBdx had been doing, but also to Pearson’s traditional customers of clinical psychologists and school psychologists.
“The larger corp is focused on education and outcomes and they recognize ADHD as a significant obstacle in the academic success of many many children,” Millman said.
[Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com user jcjgphotography]
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