Health & care professionals in primary care – such as general practitioners (GPs) or nurses – play a key role in the diagnosis pathway. They are often the first contact for people seeking a diagnosis and the gateway to other services and support, such as neurology and psychiatry, occupational therapy, or long-term care.
ADI has long recognised that timely diagnosis is not only important, but that it is more effectively done in primary care. Our 2016 World Alzheimer Report found that dementia healthcare services tend to be over-specialised, and that a rebalancing is required with a more prominent role for primary and community care. This would increase capacity, limit the increased costs associated with scaling up coverage of care, and, coupled with the introduction of care pathways and case management, improve the coordination and integration of care.
In 2018, ADI supported the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in their release of a report on the state of dementia diagnosis and care, ‘Care needed: Improving the lives of people with dementia’. The report gives an overview of dementia care strategies across OECD countries.
A key finding was that countries are failing to diagnose dementia, in part because many primary care doctors lack the necessary skills and training.
Physicians average just 12 hours of dementia training during medical school and primary care doctors correctly identify only around 50-75% of dementia cases. Fewer than 40% of OECD member countries are able to estimate diagnosis rates nationally, and only two countries (the United Kingdom and Denmark) have set specific targets to improve their diagnosis rates. Improving the lives of people with dementia through diagnosis and care is not only as an important goal in itself but also because failure to do so will significantly drive up future costs.