Background: Recent advances in telehealth have improved access to health care for those in rural areas. It is important that examinations conducted via telehealth are comparable to in-person testing. A rural and remote memory clinic in Saskatoon provided an opportunity to compare scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) administered in-person and via telehealth.
Methods: After an initial one day assessment in Saskatoon, patients were seen in follow-up at 6 and 12 weeks. Individual patients were randomly assigned to either in-person follow-up assessment in Saskatoon or telehealth assessment in their home community. Patients who initially received in-person assessments were seen by telehealth for their next follow-up visit and vice-versa. The same neurologist administered MMSEs at all visits. The first 71 patients with both 6 and 12 week follow-up assessments were included in this study. The scores of in-person and telehealth MMSE administrations were compared using the methods of Bland and Altman as well as a paired t-test.
Results: MMSE scores did not differ significantly between telehealth (22.34 +/- 6.35) and in-person (22.70 +/- 6.51) assessments.
Conclusion: Telehealth provides an acceptable means of assessing mental status of patients in remote areas.