After Medicare began covering care-planning visits for patients with cognitive impairment, the Alzheimer’s Association developed a toolkit to help clinicians provide better care.
In January, Medicare began covering care-planning sessions for patients with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In response, the Alzheimer’s Association has created the Cognitive Impairment Care Planning Toolkit to help physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants provide the best care under the new Medicare code.
A change to the G0505 Medicare code means healthcare providers can get reimbursed for a clinical visit to develop a comprehensive care plan for a patient. It also helps providers identify community support services that are appropriate for the patient.
The Alzheimer’s Association, along with its sister organization, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, had pushed for this change. They had advocated for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cover cognitive and functional assessments and care planning for patients with cognitive impairments.
“Diagnosing patients and linking them to services is a challenge,” said Beth Kallmyer, the association’s vice president of constituent services. This toolkit is “an opportunity to make a big difference in how people are diagnosed and how they’re linked to services.”
Most people with dementia are treated by primary care physicians, even if they are diagnosed by specialists, Kallmyer noted. The association had heard from doctors that putting together a care plan is time-consuming and difficult, so it assembled a group of specialists to decide what the association could offer to help clinicians conduct the care-planning session and implement the new Medicare code.
The toolkit helps clinicians understand what the code covers and provides resources to use in these sessions. It includes best practices and materials such as an overview of the code, validated tools to assist with diagnosis (including the Dementia Severity Rating Scale), a safety assessment guide, a caregiver profile checklist, and an end-of-life checklist.
Part of the association’s mission is to provide and enhance care and support for everyone affected by Alzheimer’s. Care planning helps improve outcomes and maintain quality of life. “It’s huge for people living with the disease,” Kallmyer said, explaining that some patients get diagnosed with dementia but then don’t receive much follow-up care or any comprehensive care planning.
Having a plan in place helps people living with the disease as well as their caregivers. A comprehensive plan can empower patients by giving them a better understanding of their future and allowing them to plan better for it, Kallmyer said. “They can say to their family, ‘This is how I want things to go.’”
“Alzheimer’s is one of the costliest diseases out there,” she said. A care plan helps families plan for when the patient might need to turn to residential care, for example. “Having a plan in place makes a big difference for families every single day with this disease.”
Now, the association is working on raising awareness and getting the word out to all the association’s 80 chapters about the toolkit and the resources it offers. “They are our boots on the ground,” Kallmyer said.