According to new data reported at the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2017, London, UK), multiple regions of the United States have been revealed as neurology “deserts” due to a projected chronic shortage of neurologists, and a rapid rise in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia cases. The research further shows that, due to the projected burden, additional resources, training and education are necessary for primary care physicians and caregivers.
Using population health data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Neurocern, Inc. developed an Alzheimer’s disease and Related Disorders Neurology Desert Index (ANDI), defined as the projected ratio of neurologists per 10,000 dementia patients. Results showed a great disparity in ANDI values between states by the year 2025. Twenty states were identified as dementia neurology “deserts” with a current dementia population of 1,638,800, which is projected to reach 2,068,000 by 2025.
Wyoming, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Oklahoma were revealed as the five states with the most significant projected gap between the available neurology workforce and the health needs of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2025.
“Our data highlights the importance of neurology education for clinicians, enabling them to have a more positive impact on people with dementia and their families,” said Anitha Rao, co-founder of Neurocern. “We should see these ‘deserts’ as opportunities for innovation, collaboration and progress.”
Neurocern in their research concludes that primary care providers and other licensed clinicians in dementia neurology “desert” states may require additional training and education to make up for the projected lack of neurologists.
“This intriguing study highlights several issues, including the clear inequality that exists across the United States in distribution of health resources and specialist knowledge to diagnose and treat brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, Vice President of Constituent Services at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“In many places, people do not have easy access to specialists, for a variety of reasons. But you may not need a neurologist in every case,” Kallmyer said. “With the right training and tools, primary care physicians can effectively diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is working to arm primary care physicians with the tools they need to manage an increased case load, as well as care planning guidance.” The Alzheimer’s Association’s care planning toolkit for cognitive impairment is available at http://www.alz.org/careplanning/
20 Dementia Neurology “Deserts”
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The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease states that high-quality care requires an adequate supply of culturally competent professionals with appropriate skills, including direct care workers, community health and social workers, primary care providers and specialists. Among other things, the Plan calls for: “develop[ing] a healthcare workforce that maximises individual and family engagement and improves health outcomes for older adults by integrating geriatrics with primary care. Special emphasis is on providing the primary care workforce with the knowledge and skills to care for older adults.”