With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures that have been in place since March 2020, unprecedented challenges have presented for everyone working in Alzheimer’s disease clinical research and clinical trials/drug development.
As many older adults are isolating themselves at home, individuals and their families are pivoting to use technology to stay connected with loved ones and one another. With common devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers with cameras, platforms for video-conferencing (i.e., Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook) become important tools for us to stay connected. Many healthcare providers have also transitioned to remote health visits, to continue to assess health issues and maintain important medical visits with patients while keeping safety in mind.
With many research sites not able to see participants for in-person routine study visits, research groups have found themselves looking to technology to conduct study visits. At UC Irvine’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), our team has been working hard these past few months to get the UCI ADRC’s Longitudinal Cohort operational by adapting and moving to virtual visits, so that we can restart and continue to conduct annual cognitive assessments on the many committed research participants in the program.
We proudly launched our virtual cognitive assessments at the end of September 2020 and want to thank all the clinical research participants who have agreed to this new mode of conducting your annual research assessments. While we are assessing ways to continually improve this new process and are learning about how to best adapt to the technology available, we wanted to share some helpful tips to help make the virtual testing sessions go more smoothly.
One of the most significant hurdles in remote cognitive assessment is related to one’s ability to access and use the technology involved. We understand that there may be some challenges with following and remembering directions related to technology, and there may be circumstances where assistance is needed. Our research coordinators are available to help provide clear instructions and ask for your patience and flexibility as each participant navigates the tools to allow for the remote cognitive testing sessions. If you would like to request a practice session to ensure everything is set up using your available technology in advance of the testing session, that can be arranged with the research coordinators.
Tips for a Successful Remote Cognitive Testing Session:
- The Remote Cognitive Testing Session for the UCI ADRC Longitudinal Cohort will take approximately 2 hours. Every effort should be made to ensure no other people will be in the room at the time of testing. It is acceptable to have another individual present to assist with any technical difficulties one may encounter, but no interaction with that individual should occur during the testing session.
- We would like to encourage an interruption free testing environment. The environment selected should be quiet and disturbance free.
- There should not be any clocks and/or calendars accessible near the testing area.
- Participants should ensure that they have eaten in advance of the testing sessions. This is important so that you have enough energy and sustenance to complete the testing session.
- Participants should use the restroom before starting the testing sessions. While breaks can be had, it is preferred to have as little disruption to the testing session as possible.
- Participants should ensure that pets are walked/relieved before starting the testing session.
- We ask that there be reliable internet connectivity for all video visits.
- For telephone only (audio only) sessions, please ensure you are either using a land line or a reliable cordless/mobile phone that has enough battery power to complete a 2-hour session.
- Please ensure that any devices used (computers, laptops, tablets, or cell phones) be fully charged or plugged in to prevent disruption.
- Ideally a mobile device such as a tablet or laptop would be easiest to use, as they have built-in microphones and cameras. Should you plan on using a desktop computer, please ensure that there is a working camera and microphone connected. Smartphones are also acceptable and easy to use, but the screen size may make it harder to see.
- Should the above conditions not be possible, please try to schedule at a time when conditions are optimal for the participant and the tester.
While we hope for the remote testing sessions to go as smoothly as possible, we ask for everyone’s continued patience and flexibility at each session as our study team is committed in ensuring the best testing environment possible for each participant. We want to express our sincerest gratitude for each participant’s commitment to the research program and ask for your patience in working with our team in these challenging times.
Should any research participants have further questions or need technical assistance setting up your annual research assessment, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling 949-824-2382 or by emailing ADRC@mind.uci.edu.