Longitudinal neuropsychological assessment provides the opportunity to observe the earliest transition to cognitive impairment in healthy, elderly individuals. We examined the feasibility, and its comparability to in-person assessment, of a telephone administered battery of established neuropsychological measures of cognitive functioning in healthy, elderly women.
Fifty-four women (age = 79 ± 7.7; education = 15.4 ± 3.3) who were in self-reported good health were recruited from senior centers and other community sources. A two-way cross-over design was used in which participants were randomly assigned to receive either (1) in-person neuropsychological assessment followed by telephone assessment and (2) telephone assessment followed by in-person assessment, separated by approximately 4 weeks. Linear regression models were used to determine whether there were performance differences by method (in-person vs. telephone), and equivalence testing assessed comparability of the two methods.
There were no statistically significant differences in performance between in-person and telephone assessments on most neuropsychological tests, with the exception of digit span backward, Oral Trail Making Test Part A, and delayed recall on the SRT, the latter likely related to non-comparable exposure (6-trials in-person vs. 3-trials telephone). Equivalence testing differences fell in the pre-specified clinical equivalence zones, providing evidence of comparability of the two methods.
These pilot data support telephone administration of a neuropsychological battery that yields comparable performance to in-person assessment with respect to most instruments. Significant differences in scores on some measures suggest care should be taken in selecting specific measures used in a neuropsychological battery administered by telephone.