The Alzheimer’s Association is publishing the first comprehensive set of guidelines to aid physicians in detecting and assessing cognitive impairment and decline during yearly medical exams. The tool, based on consensus from scientific studies and a workgroup of experts in the field, is available online and also will be published in hard copy as a desk reference.
Physicians who use a structured tool to assess cognition correctly detected an impairment in more than 80 percent of patients later diagnosed with dementia, significantly higher than the 59 percent detection by physicians who based their decisions only on observation, the association noted.
"Widespread use of the steps identified by the Alzheimer's Association Medicare Detection of Cognitive Impairment Workgroup could make significant inroads in reducing the prevalence of missed or delayed dementia diagnosis by either establishing a baseline for cognitive surveillance or a trigger for further diagnostic evaluation," said Bill Thies, PhD, the Alzheimer's Association chief medical scientific officer in a release.
The association urges physicians to screen for signs of dementia at every year, noting that such screening is already required as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. “Earlier detection of dementia, potentially earlier treatments, better healthcare management for patients and more favorable outcomes for affected families,” Thies added.