Mining notes from doctors and nurses could improve dementia diagnosis

June 27, 2018 | By Chris Barncard| UW News

Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi
Professor Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, photo by Alex André

The memory and reasoning problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia go woefully under-recognized when people visit the hospital. Searching for clues in electronic health records could steer many more patients to better treatment and follow-up examinations—especially patients from minority groups that tend to be less likely to receive specialized care.

“One problem is that this diagnosis is stigmatizing. We see a lot of people prescribed an anti-dementia medication, but they never actually have a dementia diagnosis entered into their electronic health record because health care providers may want to spare them that stigma,” says Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, a dementia researcher and professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing and lead author of the new study. “Another problem is that a lot of groups of people at highest risk for developing dementia tend to be racial and ethnic minorities or people from low socio-economic backgrounds, and they tend to have less access to the primary care or specialized memory care clinics where diagnosis typically happens.”

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