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Tech & Tools

University of Utah Creates App
for Alzheimer’s Care

The lack of Alzheimer’s care is on the verge of becoming an epidemic. The age-related disease that hinders memory, thinking, and behavior already affects one in eight people over the age of 65 (an estimated 5.4 million people) in the United States. These numbers are expected to grow rapidly with the “silver tsunami”—the aging baby boomer generation—and there is already a shortage of caregivers.

But there will be an app for that, according to a team of researchers at the University of Utah.

Through the university’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research (CACIR) and a related startup company called Proactive Memory Services, the team is developing a tablet computer and smartphone application that will help Alzheimer’s patients and their families manage the disease. The application is still in its infancy, but the team recently received a $125,000 Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Institutes of Health and is eligible for an additional $1 million from the federal government if they meet their goals under the initial funding.

“The app will be like having an expert at your elbow throughout the process,” says Norman Foster, MD, director of CACIR and a professor in the department of neurology. “What we hope to accomplish is reaching patients even before they seek medical advice.”

Others working on the project include Edward Zamrini, MD, a professor in the department of neurology, and Troy Andersen, LCSW, a social worker with CACIR and a University of Utah PhD candidate. In addition, the team is getting assistance from the university’s Technology Commercialization Office and Software Development Center.

The researchers want to develop several application modules, which will be downloadable onto any mobile device. The price and date of availability for each module has yet to be determined.

There will be at least three target groups for the software: people who are concerned about Alzheimer’s but don’t have symptoms, people who have symptoms and have questions about what to do, and people who have sought professional help and now want to know how to get the best care possible. The researchers are focusing on the last group in the initial launch and development.

“The module we are currently developing will provide information to families so they know if the evaluation they received from their primary care physician is adequate and high quality,” Andersen said.

The application functions are still under development, but one method would use a searchable decision tree. Patients either navigate by topic or through a search feature, and the application returns detailed information and suggestions. For example, patients could ask the software how to prepare for their initial assessment for Alzheimer’s, and the software would provide a list of what to bring and help organize the information for the doctor.

— Source: University of Utah