Can dementia screening harm a patient’s mental health? Not according to a study of diverse Indiana primary clinics. 

Patients seen in rural, suburban and urban primary care clinics did not report related depression or anxiety symptoms one month after they were screened for dementia, said Nicole R. Fowler, Ph.D., MHSA, of the Regenstrief Institute. 

“Many patients and families have concerns that dementia screenings may create anxiety or depression in patients because there is, as yet, no cure for this disease. [T]his study shows that is not the case,” Fowler said.

However, most patients with positive results for dementia (70%) did not follow up for care. In addition, screening did not reduce emergency department visits and hospitalizations, or increase the likelihood of advance care planning, Fowler added.

Though patients were often not proactive about follow-up and planning, the study shows that screening itself presents an opportunity to receive care that can lead to better outcomes, Fowler said.

Patients who did return and receive collaborative care had fewer hospital admissions compared with study participants who were not screened and went on to develop cognitive impairment, the study team found.

“For a number of reasons … people are hesitant to engage in the next steps of the process after screening. The health care system needs to help bridge this gap and encourage people to follow up on the results of screening tests as they would for any other condition,” she concluded.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.