1 in 7 Alzheimer's hospitalizations avoidable, study finds

One out of seven hospital admissions among Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer's could be preventable, according to new research. Reducing that rate could save the federal health program more than $2 billion each year.

In a study presented Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto, researchers with Tufts Medical Center in Boston explained that proactive ambulatory care could help cut down on the number of people with dementia admitted to the hospital.

Investigators looked into hospitalization rates and care costs of nearly 2.8 million Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer's or other dementias, that were broken down between conditions such as urinary tract infections, dehydration, diabetes, bacterial pneumonia, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory conditions.

Results showed that 10% of patients had had at least one potentially avoidable hospitalization, while 14% of all hospitalizations may have been preventable. Those potentially avoidable hospitalizations carried a $2.58 billion price tag, a hefty price in a healthcare landscape that's putting an increasing emphasis on improving outcomes while lowering costs.

"The striking thing about dementia is, we know it is the most expensive condition in the United States," Robert Egge, chief public policy officer for the Alzheimer's Association, told Medscape Medical News. “That's what makes this a policy priority both from controlling healthcare system costs to getting better outcomes for the patients and their families.”

Improving care management and coordination for patients with Alzheimer's may help “change this picture” and cut down on costs while reducing mortality rates, Egge added.