With almost 50 million people worldwide affected by dementia—and Alzheimer’s disease the likely cause in 60% to 80% of these cases—detection and care is at a critical juncture. Despite high prevalence of cognitive disease, significant barriers, healthcare provider burnout, and systemic bottlenecks all interfere with their identification and treatment.
By exploring common problems in cognitive care, we can gain valuable insight into the impacts caregivers, patients, and providers themselves face—and more effectively provide solutions.
Overcoming Big Barriers
A major hurdle in providing timely care is the lack of an accessible, standardized, and routine digital screening for cognitive decline. Most primary care doctors do not proactively offer screening because current methods are time consuming. Additionally, patients may erroneously believe that cognitive issues are a normal part of aging, and avoid discussing concerns with their primary care physician (PCP). According to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts & Figures Report, these trends result in missed opportunities for meaningful intervention.
Healthcare costs also pose a significant barrier. In 2023, Alzheimer’s and dementia-related costs may reach $345 billion (excluding caregiver expenses). Delayed diagnosis can further contribute to increased healthcare utilization costs, including hospitalizations, ER visits, and long-term care.
When cognitive disease goes undetected, families miss out on valuable support services and resources. It complicates caregiving, exacerbates challenges, and robs patients of the ability to have a voice in their own care planning.
Addressing Provider Burnout
Healthcare provider burnout is at an all-time high, with the Alzheimer’s Association reporting a 63% burnout rate among physicians in all specialties. PCPs and specialists involved in Alzheimer’s diagnosis and care are particularly affected.
Time-crunched annual wellness visits (AWVs) contribute to burnout, as PCPs struggle to conduct a comprehensive examination in 20-40 minutes. They’re expected to check for cognitive impairment in this window, but traditional pen-and-paper exams are too time consuming, and make patients feel singled out. They also require extensive training for the administrator, further burdening care teams that are already spread-thin.
To combat burnout, it’s essential to adopt a standardized, administrator-friendly screening that seamlessly integrates into primary care workflows.
Understanding Specialist Bottlenecks
The U.S. faces a projected shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034. And we’re already feeling the pinch. It’s common for older adults to face many-months-long waits to see neurologists and other specialists for further evaluation. These bottlenecks in cognitive care can translate into delays of a year or more in getting a diagnosis. This in turn deprives these individuals of critical attention, medical intervention, and even opportunities to participate in clinical trials. By giving primary care teams better tools and a standardized approach to screening, they’ll gain confidence to provide cognitive care at the top of the funnel.
The Importance of Timely Cognitive Screening
Innovative solutions are crucial to addressing barriers, burnout, and clinical care bottlenecks. Neurotrack’s 3-Minute Cognitive Screening responds to that need and efficiently screens for cognitive impairment during regular AWVs. Neurotrack’s first-line screening tool delivers a brief but informative assessment that seamlessly integrates into busy care-provider workflows and yields a single data point to track over time.
Detecting cognitive impairment early speeds diagnosis, helps allocate resources to patients who need them, and paves the way for better outcomes. It’s an easy step to streamline a problematic part of healthcare workflows, change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and give families more good years together.