Improving HIV Care with m-Health Tools: An App to Detect Neurocognitive Impairment

Principal Investigator: 

Collaborating Institution: 

Manhattan HIV Brain Bank, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Study Location:

New York, NY, USA


Neurocognitive impairment (NCI) is one of the most common clinical conditions seen in HIV, affecting as many as 70% of infected individuals, including those on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and with well-controlled viremia. The NCI seen in HIV has significant medical, functional, and public health consequences (e.g., problems adhering to ART), but often goes undetected in the clinical setting. Routine screening for HIV-related NCI can enhance provider-patient communication to help patients with NCI better manage their ART adherence and other health outcomes, but doing so faces challenges. 

To address this public health and medical practice gap, we have developed an mHealth tool to make screening more accessible and sustainable in the modern clinical setting. NeuroScreen is a brief, easy-to-use NCI screening test application (app) for Android mobile devices designed to be administered by a wide range of non-expert healthcare personnel. The app is highly automated (e.g., does not require any record keeping or scoring) with standardized instructions ensuring consistent administrations each and every time with minimal training. NeuroScreen is ultra-portable (i.e., usable in any clinic exam room, remote and rural settings, or during home visits) and totally self- contained (i.e., no need for paper forms, pens, stopwatches, or other apparatuses). Results from NeuroScreen are available immediately and can be transmitted electronically to a variety of “end-users,” such as primary care providers, HIV specialists and/or electronic medical records, as well as to databases for population level monitoring. This study will assess the usability and acceptability of a tablet-based NeuroScreen by HIV care providers of differing expertise levels (e.g., physicians, nurses, and case managers), and identify provider- and clinic-level facilitators and barriers to integrating this mHealth tool into clinical practice. The study will then evaluate NeuroScreen’s accuracy to detect mild NCI in 182 HIV-infected adults with NCI (n=91) and without NCI (n=91). With an easy-to-use
and accurate tool to detect NCI and well-suited for clinics using and moving towards electronic medical systems, early detection and on-going monitoring of impairment could be realized and help healthcare providers communicate more effectively with patients about their treatment and care, make better referrals, and offer tailored ART adherence interventions and strategies as well as HIV prevention services. Furthermore, NeuroScreen offers health systems a viable method to collect large quantities of neurocognitive data suited to population level epidemiological research and other studies utilizing big data. An mHealth tool, like NeuroScreen, could be easily modified for use in other disease populations and regions of the world that rely on task-shifting due to very limited healthcare resources.