The Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) Workgroup on Cognitive Impairment Detection and Earlier Diagnosis has issued a new report that outlines methods for more effective diagnosis of cognitive impairment as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV).
AWV services already require detection of cognitive impairment, but a lack of standard tools and an absence of data show that this service is not being fully utilized.
To address these issues, the new report provides a step-by-step plan and highlights the positive health effects of increased, earlier detection of cognitive impairment. The report outlines four main steps that will help clinicians start a dialogue about cognition and better detect cognitive impairment in their patients.
Step one focuses on starting a dialogue about cognition. The GSA workgroup recommends that clinicians check in with patients and families about any memory-related symptoms during each AWV.
If a patient does have memory-related symptoms, the GSA workgroup recommends that they move to step two, which is performing an assessment of a symptomatic patient. The workgroup provides a list of cognitive impairment detection tools which can be found in the full report.
If the assessment detects cognitive impairment in the patient, clinicians should proceed to step three: evaluate the patient with a full diagnostic workup. Clinicians should follow published clinical practice guidelines to help them determine a differential diagnosis.
In step four, clinicians should refer patients to community resources and/or clinical trials depending on their diagnosis. The GSA workgroup suggests that all patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia should be referred to all available community services to better equip themselves for life with their new diagnosis.
The GSA hopes that these new guidelines will help more Medicare beneficiaries receive timely diagnoses and ultimately, that it will improve outcomes for these patients.
The full report can be found here, along with a link to a companion webinar.