Are health systems ready to meet demand for Alzheimer’s tests & drugs?

July 11 2023

On January 6, 2023, the FDA announced that it was granting accelerated approval to Leqembi, a drug to treat early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Just weeks later, over 40% of older adults without dementia reported in a survey that they had already heard about Leqembi. The results and analysis of that survey are captured in Linus Health’s new report, Patient Voices on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. The data shows that not only are older adults paying attention to the news about Alzheimer’s treatments, but also that they plan to take action once new drugs are available.

The impact of new treatments on patient desires

The majority of older adults surveyed said they would take action after hearing of new treatments becoming available: more than 6 out of 10 said they would reach out to their primary care provider (PCP) for more information or testing if they heard that a new drug for Alzheimer’s was approved.

Openness to pharmaceutical intervention for cognitive decline is extremely high, with 90% of survey respondents indicating interest in taking a medication to slow the disease if they received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and nearly 60% reporting that they would absolutely do so.

PCPs should expect a major rise in demand for cognitive assessments

With the news of Leqembi’s full FDA approval, older adults plan to take action in ways that will impact healthcare providers and systems. Not only would 60% would reach out to their primary care provider, 42% say they would be likely or very likely to ask for cognitive testing, even if they didn’t have symptoms of cognitive decline.

But are healthcare providers and systems ready for this forecasted demand? Primary care providers and healthcare systems can prepare by mapping out care pathways and workflows that anticipate the changes ahead. Policy changes and additional resources are likely needed to increase cognitive assessment rates in primary care settings. A significant key to meeting the demand is more efficient tools, such as next-generation digital cognitive assessments that can facilitate more widespread testing in primary care.

What’s at stake is critical for patients. According to a 2022 NIH report, “Expected wait times for access to a disease-modifying Alzheimer's treatment in the United States,” “If patients were referred based on a brief cognitive test, wait times for specialist visits would reach around 50 months. If referral also required a positive blood-based biomarker test, wait times would be around 12 months.” The report’s authors conclude that there is a need for more precise diagnostic tools at initial evaluation to better identify and triage a patient’s cognitive decline in order to avoid unnecessary delays in care.

To learn more about how digital innovation is eliminating the challenges of time-consuming manual assessments, and how to develop an action plan to modernize cognitive testing in your organization, read our white paper, Expanding Cognitive Screening & Assessment: A Practical Guide for PCPs.