Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With these staggering statistics, it’s a wonder that reaching a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s patients can be so difficult. Ruth Gay, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Alzheimer’s Association says the biggest issue with the disease is chasing a diagnosis, claiming the process can take years.
Medicare lawmakers have decided to take this issue into their own hands, creating a new rule that offers reimbursement to primary care doctors who diagnose Alzheimer’s. Medicare would also offer information about care planning to those diagnosed, guiding patients and their families towards a proper plan of action during an otherwise confusing time. The rule is designed to speed up the process in Alzheimer diagnoses, providing incentives for care providers and making evaluations easier to offer.
Many doctors avoid testing for Alzheimer’s because the disease will only continue to grow in severity, and patients often suffer from other, more immediate diseases. The Alzheimer’s Association says that 61% of those aged 70 or older who have Alzheimer’s are expected to die before they reach 80 years of age. Comparatively, those of the same age without Alzheimer’s have double the chances of living to see their 80th birthdays. It may seem redundant to diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s when he or she already has other debilitating diseases, but healthcare officials are hopeful that this new Medicare rule will encourage primary doctors to evaluate patients for Alzheimer’s regardless.
As it is with most diseases, diagnosing early and beginning care immediately can significantly help the outcome of the patient. Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer says, "Proper care planning results in fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits and better management of medication — all of which improves the quality of life for both patients and caregivers, and helps manage overall care costs.”
With this new change, Medicare is hopeful more patients can be diagnosed quickly and confidently, leading to earlier care and less strain on their families.
If you think you have a medical malpractice case such as a failure to diagnose, contact Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. today.