More than five million Americans are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Much of the medical care for patients with AD occurs in primary care settings, but some patients are referred to specialists (e.g., neurologist, psychiatrist, or geriatrician) for further diagnosis and treatment upon the first presentation of symptoms suggesting cognitive decline. While there may be concern that treatment by specialists would result in increased costs of care, new research suggests that consulting with a specialist at the early stages of cognitive decline may result in reduced spending for medical services.
In a retrospective analysis of de-identified administrative claims for more than three million Medicare beneficiaries that included patients who had been diagnosed with AD between 2009–2012, Analysis Group researchers determined that patients seen by a specialist when first diagnosed with cognitive symptoms were more likely to be diagnosed sooner with AD and incurred lower medical costs – particularly in the year following the initial cognitive decline diagnosis.
Presenting these findings at the
Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), Vice President Noam Kirson explained, “These results suggest that seeking timely care from specialists may result in an earlier, more accurate diagnosis and reduce overall medical resource use and costs among patients eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.” ■
From Health Care Bulletin: Fall 2014