Essentia Health Adds Dementia Screening To Wellness Visits
Essentia Health physicians and registered nurses want to help patients and families find answers for dementia. The healthcare system will now routinely screen people age 65 and older with a short, cognitive test.
The screening involves a five-minute cognitive test and is a part of patients’ free Medicare wellness visit with a registered nurse or annual physical with a physician.
“Our goal is to identify patients who may have dementia so we can create the proper care plan for them and offer resources to them at the same time,” says Director of Primary Care Dr. Joe Bianco, who leads initiatives to improve the quality and care for patients.
Dr. Bianco, working with Dr. Michael Sharland in neuropsychology, and Dr. Steve Waring, of the Essentia Institute of Rural Health (EIRH), identified a need to better diagnose dementia illnesses and to standardize the type of care and resources offered to patients. A pilot program was held at Essentia Health-Ely and West Duluth Clinics, and led to the expansion to all Essentia Health clinics, starting this summer.
“Early detection allows patients and families to make plans for the future,” said Bianco. “We can also connect them to resources in their community that can offer information, services, support, respite and day care.”
Patients who don’t pass take a more detailed cognitive test and undergo other examinations to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
“We’re hopeful this screening will lead to earlier detection of cognitive issues in our senior population, so we can help improve their health and ultimately the quality of life for them, and their family members,” said Bianco.