Screening positive for cognitive impairment: impact on healthcare utilization and provider action in primary and specialty care practices
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BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia, goes unrecognized in half of patients presenting to healthcare providers and is associated with increased acute care utilization. Routine cognitive screening of older adults in healthcare settings could improve rates of dementia diagnosis and patterns of healthcare utilization. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of screening positive for cognitive impairment on provider action in primary and specialty care practices and patient healthcare utilization. DESIGN: Individuals asymptomatic for cognitive impairment completed cognitive screening with the Mini-Cog (MC). Outcomes included MC screen-positive rates, provider follow-up actions, and healthcare utilization for all participants over a period of 36 months (18 months prior to and following MC screening). Data were extracted from the electronic medical record (EMR). Healthcare provider interventions and healthcare utilization for screen-positive and -negative groups, before and after screening, were compared. PARTICIPANTS: Primary and specialty care patients (n = 787) aged >/= 65 without history of cognitive impairment seen in HealthPartners, an integrated healthcare system in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. KEY RESULTS: In primary care and neurology practices combined, over the entire 36-month study window, individuals screening positive showed 32% higher rates of ED visits (p < 0.05) pre and post-screening compared to those screening negative. Screen positive also showed 39% higher rates of hospitalizations pre-screening (p < 0.05) and 58% higher rates post-screening (p < 0.01). While screen-detected cognitive impairment was associated with some relevant provider follow-up action in 32% of individuals, subsequent healthcare utilization did not change between the 18-month pre- and post-screening periods. CONCLUSION: Despite being associated with higher rates of healthcare utilization, screening positive on the MC led to a change in provider action in a minority of cases and did not reduce post-screening healthcare utilization. Screening for cognitive impairment alone is not sufficient to alter patterns of provider practice or patient healthcare utilization.
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