The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have taken significant steps to improve cognitive care for Medicare beneficiaries. In fact, detecting cognitive impairment is a required element of annual wellness visits (AWV). However, many healthcare providers struggle to implement effective and efficient cognitive screening strategies, resulting in missed opportunities for early detection and care.
Adopting digital screening tools, adhering to requirements, and encouraging the development of robust cognitive care strategies, can help. To comply with CMS cognitive screening requirements and drive positive change for caregivers and patients, consider the following six factors.
1. Recognize the importance of proper cognitive screening
CMS's focus on cognitive screening underscores the growing importance of early detection and intervention in cognitive impairment cases. By making cognitive screening an AWV requirement, and covering a follow up appointment to develop a care plan, CMS aims to enhance the overall quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries—especially those at risk of Alzheimer's disease.
2. Address existing compliance challenges
Despite the CMS mandate, healthcare providers face several challenges in implementing cognitive screening. Inefficient workflows, specialist shortages, and system-wide bottlenecks may contribute to complexities in how primary care physicians (PCPs) address cognitive impairment with their patients. Consequently, many organizations still rely on doctors' observations or concerns shared by patients' families, missing critical opportunities for early detection and intervention.
3. Prioritize early detection and care planning
Without structured cognitive screening protocols, healthcare providers risk overlooking early cognitive impairment markers. Early detection plays a pivotal role in developing effective care and treatment plans before Alzheimer’s progresses—giving patients better opportunities to manage their condition and preserve their quality of life. It will also pick up cognitive impairment due to other manageable causes, like sleep apnea, overmedication, vitamin deficiency, depression and more.
4. Know that efficient screening leads to maximum reimbursements
Efficient cognitive screening on a broader scale can also lead to increased reimbursement for healthcare providers. By identifying cognitive impairment early and adhering to CMS requirements, providers receive appropriate reimbursement to care for these more complex patients.
5. Acknowledge that avoiding a diagnosis helps no one
When patients reach the later stages of cognitive disease, the burden on PCPs, caregivers, and the healthcare system increases significantly. Limited access to specialists and resources further complicates patient care, adding to the urgency for early detection and intervention.
6. Leverage user-friendly tools for effective cognitive care strategies
To overcome the challenges associated with cognitive screening, healthcare providers should consider employing digital screening tools. Neurotrack’s 3-Minute Cognitive Screening is a simple "plug and play" solution that seamlessly integrates into existing workflows, making it easier for PCPs to identify cognitive impairment early on.
CMS compliance is crucial
Conforming to CMS cognitive screening requirements is key for healthcare providers and organizations to deliver high-quality care to their Medicare beneficiaries. By utilizing digital screening tools and developing effective cognitive care strategies, providers can detect cognitive impairment early, maximize reimbursement, and alleviate the burden on PCPs during advanced stages of cognitive decline.