Results Summary

What was the research about?

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects cognitive ability and physical features. People with Down syndrome often have other health problems. Clinics that specialize in Down syndrome help people get recommended care for these problems, such as eye exams or sleep studies. But not all people with Down syndrome have access to these clinics.

In this study, the research team tested a web-based platform for caregivers to help people with Down syndrome get personal wellness recommendations. The team looked at the use of five services: eye and hearing exams, screenings for sleep apnea and celiac disease, and a thyroid function test. The platform, called Down Syndrome Clinic to You, or DSC2U,

  • Collects health history and current symptoms
  • Creates personalized checklists for caregivers
  • Creates reports of recommended services based on medical guidelines that caregivers can share with their primary care providers, or PCPs 

The research team compared caregivers who were offered DSC2U with caregivers who got usual care.

What were the results?

After seven months, compared with usual care, caregivers who were offered DSC2U reported a 1.6-times increase in the number of indicated services completed or recommended. Quality of life for caregivers of people with Down Syndrome didn’t differ between caregivers who were offered DSC2U and those who got usual care.

Caregivers and PCPs reported high satisfaction with DSC2U.

Who was in the study?

The study included 230 caregivers with a child or adult dependent with Down syndrome. Of the caregivers, 91 percent were white, 5 percent were black, 2 percent were more than one race, and 1 percent were Asian; 11 percent were Hispanic or Latino. The average age was 47, and 96 percent were women. Among people with Down syndrome, the average age was 12, and 54 percent were boys. Families lived in areas not served by a Down syndrome clinic.

What did the research team do?

The research team assigned caregivers by chance to use DSC2U or not.

Caregivers completed surveys at the start of the study and two and seven months after a well visit with the local PCP. The survey asked about whether the person with Down syndrome got the indicated recommendations or services. It also asked about quality of life and satisfaction with DSC2U. Two weeks after the well visit, PCPs reported on their satisfaction with DSC2U.

Caregivers, PCPs, and others with expertise in Down syndrome helped plan the study and design DSC2U.

What were the limits of the study?

Most caregivers in the study were white and had college degrees. Findings may differ for caregivers from other backgrounds.

Future research could test DSC2U with people from other backgrounds.

How can people use the results?

Caregivers and PCPs can use the platform to improve health screenings for people with Down syndrome.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Journal Citations

Stories and Videos

Media Mentions

People with Down Syndrome Are Living Longer, but the Health System Still Treats Many as Kids
Tony Leys, KFF Health News, April 12, 2023
This article includes an interview with this study's Principal Investigator, Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, and highlights the clinical effectiveness of web-based platforms like Down Syndrome Clinic to You (DSC2U), which was created through this study to make it easier for people with Down Syndrome and their caregivers to access specialized information and expertise about the health services they need.

For People With Down Syndrome, the Best Medical Information is Now Automated
Genevieve Shaw Brown, ABC News, October 27, 2020
This article highlights DSC2U and features interviews with this study's Principal Investigator, Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, and Cristina Sanchez, one of the initial patients who were enrolled in DSC2U during the trial period.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments. 

Peer reviewers commented and the researchers made changes or provided responses. Those comments and responses included the following:

  • The reviewers question how the researchers treated missing data, given that there were 12 participants lost to follow-up in the intervention arm compared to 2 in the control arm. The researchers admitted that while they had intended to count these participants as failing to complete the evaluation, this was not done and not considered in the final analyses. When the researchers reran the analyses including the missing cases as incomplete evaluations, they found that the intervention still had significant benefit over the control in participant families completing indicated evaluations. However, this more conservative analysis strategy found that the intervention was not statistically superior to the control in participant families completing nonindicated evaluations. 
  • The reviewers cautioned the researchers not to overstate the significance of the relative difference in risk ratio between the intervention and control conditions, when the absolute difference in risk ratio in completed evaluations did not reach the clinically meaningful difference established at the beginning of the study. The researchers acknowledged this point but stated that there are instances where the relative difference in risk ratio is more relevant for clinical decisions. Therefore, the researchers presented both risk ratios in the report so that readers could evaluate the significance of the study on both scales.
  • The reviewers recommended including the results from the more complicated statistical procedures the researchers used in testing the primary outcomes. The researchers added the significance values for the more complicated tests but chose to not include more of those results because they felt that the t-test results best conveyed the results of the trial since they used a scale that was more meaningful clinically.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP
Massachusetts General Hospital
Virtual Evidence-based Healthcare for Underserved Patients with Down Syndrome

Key Dates

April 2016
November 2020

Study Registration Information


Has Results
Award Type
Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
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Last updated: April 12, 2024