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Using digital assessments, a clinical psychologist saves time and increases accuracy

Loretta Bolyard, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Butte, Montana

When Dr. Loretta Bolyard, a clinical psychologist, saw a demonstration of digital assessments at a professional conference, she immediately saw the benefits. "I took a cab to the mall and bought two iPads®," she said. "I brought them straight to the Pearson booth and bought Q-interactive® right there."

Loretta Boylard, PhDDr. Bolyard, who specializes in neuropsychological assessments, decided to try digital assessments because they solved a number of challenges. "I'm not tech savvy, and I know many people aren't ready to move testing to an all-digital format," she said. "But there are so many advantages." She now administers almost all assessments digitally, except for some subtests that are particular to her clients and are not yet available on Q-interactive.

The time Dr. Bolyard saves has enabled her to serve more clients, thereby filling a critical need in her community. "I work in a rural area, and I'm only one of two neuropsychologists in the area," she explained. "I can fit in more clients a week now, so more people can get help locally. Before, if clients needed an evaluation, they'd either have to wait several months for an appointment or travel 100 miles to the nearest town."

Digital assessments have an added benefit for Dr. Bolyard's clients, most of whom are geriatric. "Because the digital format is usually faster than pencil and paper, my older clients get less fatigued," she said. Since sometimes her patients are nervous at first about using an iPad, she will do some warm-up exercises before beginning the assessment. Her clients end up being "pretty proud of themselves for using the tablet," she commented.

"Because [clients are] engaged and because I can alter the course of testing during the evaluation, I know that I'm getting a more accurate picture of their abilities."

Most importantly, digital assessments have given Dr. Bolyard the means to evaluate patients she might otherwise have difficulty assessing. The story of one of her clients, an eighty-year-old woman, is a case in point.

The woman's daughter brought her to Dr. Bolyard for a psychological evaluation to assess her cognitive functioning in order to provide the courts with information for a guardianship hearing. But when they arrived for the appointment, the woman refused to get out of the car.

Dr. Bolyard engaged with her by making small talk through the car window, which was rolled halfway down. But the woman still refused to get out of the car because she believed that lawyers were hiding in the bushes. Finally, Dr. Bolyard convinced the woman to sit on the grass outside her office building and have tea.

Rushing into her office, Dr. Bolyard got some tea and used Q-interactive to load a few tests onto two iPads. Returning to the woman, she offered to play some "games" with her on the iPads. The woman happily agreed, saying, "My grandkids use these!" The woman became increasingly engaged as Dr. Bolyard administered the tests. "I haven't played games in twenty years!" she told the doctor. Ultimately, Dr. Bolyard was able to coax the woman into her office, promising to play more games if she came inside.

Once in the office, Dr. Bolyard finished administering the battery of tests. Her conclusions about the woman's levels of paranoia and dementia helped the courts determine that she required a guardian. By using digital assessments, Dr. Bolyard was able to help the woman get the support she needed.

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