Many providers struggle to offer memory disorders care that is both high-quality and financially sustainable, and the challenge will only grow: the Alzheimer’s Association predicts the number of patients with memory-related disorders to triple to 13.8 million by 2050 as treatment options and a cure remain elusive to providers. On top of this rising demand, reimbursement processes fail to meet the complex needs of these patients who require multifaceted care.
Related: The states where the Alzheimer's population is surging
These pressures are forcing providers to rethink how they organize and deliver their memory disorders services. Here are five key strategies that a program of any scope and size can implement to effectively treat this population while remaining financially solvent.
5 imperatives for building a financially sustainable Alzheimer’s disease program
1. Define program scope
Developing a comprehensive memory disorders center is resource intensive, so hospitals should strategically define their scope of service to ensure responsible resource utilization. For example, programs can focus solely on diagnosis and research, and partner with community organizations and PCPs on wellness and medication management. Alternatively, if a program has the available capital, they can establish a one-stop shop that offers the range of medical and social services needed to effectively treat this population.
2. Prioritize prevention and early diagnosis
As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progress, the annual cost to treat patients also grows. A patient with mild symptoms costs on average $18,400 to treat annually, whereas a patient with severe symptoms costs up to $36,132. Investing in infrastructure to promote prevention and early detection (e.g. public awareness campaigns, diagnostic tools for PCPs, and rapid memory evaluation clinics) is critical to making an accurate, timely diagnosis and better managing care costs.
3. Employ a collaborative approach to care
Aligning patients and providers from across the care continuum ensures that patients receive the right care at the right time. Employing a collaborative care model is critical to reducing unnecessary services and hospitalization, the main cost drivers in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia treatment.
4. Elevate nurse practitioners
NPs are well-suited to lead memory disorders programs from clinical and financial perspectives. Their holistic care training aligns with the dementia population’s range of palliative, medical, and psychosocial care needs. Employing NPs is also more cost-efficient, allowing for dedicated program staff.
5. Participate in research
Reimbursement for care is often insufficient to sustain a memory disorders program. Programs can participate in NIA- and industry- funded clinical trials, which pay per subject, to augment their revenue stream. Additionally, offering alternative treatment options for a complex, incurable condition helps draw new patients into the system.