This Startup Wants To Bridge Gaps In Developmental Diagnoses

This Startup Wants To Bridge Gaps In Developmental Diagnoses
Children

PSFK had a chance to talk to Dr. Sharief Taraman and Brent Vaughan from Cognoa about how technology may help with early detection

Jiwon Kim
  • 25 october 2017

The average age of a child diagnosed with autism is around four. Even though an accurate diagnosis can be made at an early age, delays in diagnosis are commonplace. Cognoa wants reverse this trend by helping parents and medical professionals recognize developmental issues earlier through technology.

Dr. Sharief Taraman, MD, assistant division chief of pediatric neurology and medical informaticist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Brent Vaughan, CEO of Cognoa answered some questions on how they work to reduce the time in autism diagnosis.

How is Cognoa using machine learning technology to detect autism and other development delays?

Sharief: Research has shown that parental concerns are what detect 70% to 80% of children with disabilities. Cognoa’s approach relies on dynamic decision-making algorithms and data collected from parents and caregivers. Our proprietary machine learning algorithm simultaneously evaluates data through 400 – 1200 complex, non-observable, multi-level decision trees to identify autism spectrum disorders with a high rate of accuracy.

Does research show that diagnosing development delays earlier makes a significant difference in the lives of these children?

Sharief: One in six children in the United States will have developmental delay and one in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Families often wait as long as 13 months between initial screening and diagnosis—and even longer if they’re part of a minority population or lower socioeconomic groups. These delays directly translate into postponements to the delivery of early intervention services, which impacts the potential for significant and positive impacts on a child’s development. Thus, there is a critical need for more accurate and earlier identification of children at risk for ASD. Up to 25% of patients with Autism may be able to “cure” the diagnosis with early interventions. This is because later interventions are not able to take advantage of neuronal plasticity that diminishes with age. With more than 285,000 children, the average age of children identified by Cognoa as “high-risk” for autism was 3.08 years old, 13 months earlier than the national average for Autism diagnosis (4.17 years).

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Can you give us a quick overview of how Cognoa developed its algorithm?

Sharief: Cognoa’s algorithm was based on the initial work of Dennis Wall, who holds a PhD at Harvard and Stanford. It has continually been improved over several generations of algorithms over the past five years

After the diagnosis, what comes next for families?

Sharief: Earlier identification affords parents the ability to seek help for their children during the critical treatment window for which the software provides home-based developmental activities based on the features identified during the assessment. A parent can share Cognoa’s recommended activities with their physician, review them at Individual Education Plan meetings at school and complement what developmental specialists are providing for their child. This creates a continuum of care at home and with their extended team. Cognoa has also complied an extensive knowledge base of commonly asked questions and offers assistance with care navigation to its users.

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How do you think your technology might expand or improve in years to come?

Brent: At Cognoa, we are focused on fundamentally changing the standard care for diagnosing and treating behavioral health conditions. We are actively working to increase both the depth of care we can provide to patients and doctors, as well as the breadth of behavioral health indications we can address. We engage with clinicians and the FDA to develop diagnostic tools that are integrated with personalized behavioral intervention therapies that parents and doctors can use to ensure that children with delays receive the most effective treatments years sooner than the current system. At the same time, we are expanding our AI and clinical development to increase the breadth of behavioral health conditions we can diagnose and treat.

Cognoa

The average age of a child diagnosed with autism is around four. Even though an accurate diagnosis can be made at an early age, delays in diagnosis are commonplace. Cognoa wants reverse this trend by helping parents and medical professionals recognize developmental issues earlier through technology.

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