Diagnosing the Right Kind of Dementia

Alzheimers disease misdiagnosis can cause excess cost

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, which causes memory loss and behavioral changes. There are other types of dementia, and the correct diagnosis is important for treatment.

A new study presented at the 2013 Alzheimer's Association International Conference showed that an incorrect diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease cost a lot of extra money in medical claims.

The study also found the extra costs stopped once the patients were correctly diagnosed.

"Visit your doctor if you are experiencing memory loss."

Noam Kirson, PhD, of the Analysis Group Inc., and colleagues conducted this study to review costs related to false diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease.

The study examined Medicare recipients with vascular dementia and Parkinson's disease who had previously been diagnosed incorrectly with Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers reviewed claims from patients receiving Medicare.

These researchers found that 17 percent of vascular dementia patients had an incorrect Alzheimer's diagnosis. They also found that 8 percent of Parkinson's patients were diagnosed with Alzheimer's incorrectly.

The researchers then matched the patients with incorrect diagnoses with similar patients who had vascular dementia or Parkinson's disease but had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer's incorrectly.

A review of the medical claims found that the incorrect Alzheimer's diagnosis led to significantly higher costs, up to $14,000 per year, when compared to people who were not incorrectly diagnosed.

The researchers also found the excess costs ended quickly once the patient received the correct diagnosis.

Dr. Kirson spoke at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference about the study. “Recent developments in technology have greatly improved our ability to properly diagnose patients with cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Kirson. “Early diagnosis of other forms of dementia may help patients and providers avoid unnecessary costs and free up resources that could be used elsewhere.”

This research was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, July 17, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts.

This study was funded in part by Eli Lilly and Company. Three of the authors are employed by Eli Lilly and Company.

Review Date: 
July 25, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013