Magazine article Aging Today

New Study Assesses Healthcare System Readiness to Address Alzheimer's

Magazine article Aging Today

New Study Assesses Healthcare System Readiness to Address Alzheimer's

Article excerpt

In November 2017, the RAND Corporation released a study, "Assessing the Preparedness of the U.S. Health Care System Infrastructure for an Alzheimer's Treatment" (goo.gl/hVZ3ZH), with the intent of creating a sense of urgency around the topic, in the hope that major stakeholders (researchers, healthcare entities, advocates) can collaborate to address foreseen obstacles quickly. The key findings point out that no diseasemodifying treatment for Alzheimer's is currently available, but study authors take the optimistic view that by 2020 more therapies will become available.

But how well can America's current healthcare system handle the expected large number of Alzheimer's patients? By 2019, nearly 15 million people with mild cognitive impairment-a condition that may signal early-stage Alzheimer's-are projected to live in the United States; and this population will need evaluation by specialists, diagnostic testing for the disease and treatment when these are discovered.

The RAND study predicts that in 2020, patients would have to wait an average of 18.6 months for treatment. And approximately 2.1 million people in the United States will develop Alzheimer's between 2020 and 2040, while on those waiting lists. Predicted long waits are due mainly to a dearth in dementia specialists to evaluate and diagnose patients, and to a lack of access to imaging that confirms the diagnosis and to treatment delivery centers.

Due to the complexities of the U.S. healthcare system and its payment policies, regulatory requirements and workforce shortages, RAND predicts that solving the system's capacity constraints around Alzheimer's and other dementias will be as challenging as developing an effective treatment for the disease. …

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