With 75 million people projected to be living with dementia in 19 years, science turns to AI for early diagnoses

Credit: Alzheimer's Society
Credit: Alzheimer's Society

[A] study, funded by the [National Institute on Aging] and published this year in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined electronic records of more than 16,000 medical visits of 4,330 participants in a Kaiser Permanente Washington health system.

Using a model that identified 31 factors associated with cognitive decline—including changes in the way patients walk, prescription-refill patterns that indicate they aren’t taking medications as prescribed, failure to show up for clinic visits and an uptick in emergency-care use—researchers were able to flag more than 1,000 visits that resulted in a dementia diagnosis, including nearly 500 in which the patient’s cognitive changes previously had gone undetected in the health system. The researchers concluded that if patients with scores in the top 5% of their model were sent for additional evaluation, one in six would be found to have dementia.

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The goal of using artificial intelligence in health care isn’t to replace humans but rather to assist doctors, says P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor and director of the Neurocognitive Disorders Program at Duke University School of Medicine. “This isn’t a battle between AI and doctors, it’s about how to optimize doctors’ ability to deliver better care,” he says.

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