Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Kirson: Developments in diagnostic technology now support ruling out Alzheimer’s disease (AD) among patients presenting with symptoms of cognitive decline, possibly facilitating earlier and more accurate diagnosis of non-Alzheimer’s dementias. Our study assessed potential economic benefits of timely rule out of Alzheimer’s disease among U.S. Medicare beneficiaries eventually diagnosed with vascular dementia (VD) or Parkinson’s disease (PD) by estimating excess medical costs among those previously misdiagnosed withAlzheimer’s. We found that approximately one in six beneficiaries with VD and one in twelve beneficiaries with PD had a prior Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Further, we found that VD and PD patients previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease incurred substantially higher medical costs in periods leading up to and including their VD/PD diagnoses, compared with matched counterparts with no prior AD diagnosis during the same timeframe. Perhaps most interestingly, excess costs declined – and eventually dissipated – following the confirmed VD/PD diagnoses.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Kirson: The significant and potentially avoidable medical resource use and related costs associated with misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease—and their dissipation after the correction of that diagnosis—suggest substantial value of ruling out Alzheimer’s, and of doing so as early as possible. Timely and accurate diagnosis may help avoid or limit use of medical resources and procedures, which could be beneficial to patients while providing substantial savings within the Medicare system.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Kirson: Our study was unable to shed light on the specific mechanism through which misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease led to increased utilization of medical services and associated costs among patients with VD or PD. This is an important area for future research, as it would help researchers and policy makers better evaluate the degree to which the excess resource use and costs are avoidable.
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Noam Kirsom (2015). Accurate Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Can Save Money and Resources MedicalResearch.com