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Discussing Cognitive Health: How to Talk About Cognitive Health Care With Patients
Primary Care

Discussing Cognitive Health: How to Talk About Cognitive Health Care With Patients

Published: 07/08/2023

Written by: Creyos

Cognitive and mental health issues have become prevalent in our society, yet discussing the topic of cognitive health care with patients is still a challenge. With over 55 million individuals worldwide living with dementia, it’s more important than ever for healthcare providers to have effective tools and strategies for approaching these conversations.

Given the stigma and unease that's still attached to questioning someone's cognition, brain health is a topic that's often ignored. Just as it’s standard health care practice to record the basic indicators of physical health, such as vital signs during a regular checkup, it’s time that the same attitude is applied to the basic indicators of brain health—and it starts by openly communicating with patients.

There is a shift occurring across health care—one that is removing the stigmas associated with cognitive and mental health. With the help of technology, doctors are taking a proactive approach to cognitive health care and improving patient outcomes.

 

A New Focus on Cognitive Health Care

When cognitive health is not a standard part of health care practice, it’s nearly impossible to detect cognitive decline early–when it is most beneficial to the patient. For most individuals, cognitive function has minor fluctuations but is otherwise relatively steady. Therefore, in many cases, if there is no severe impairment, obvious injury, or illness, cognitive deficits can be left undetected and untreated.

The best way to stay on top of cognitive health is to gather the objective information needed to establish a baseline, then track brain health over time. But doing this with efficiency requires the right tools. Traditional assessments can have up to 6-month wait times, take 2-3 hours using pen and paper, and require professional oversight with results that don’t have the specificity and sensitivity needed for long-term monitoring. New computerized assessment tools are helping support the cognitive health care shift by providing a scientifically and medically valid way to track brain function over time. When providers can continually monitor brain health over time, it’s much easier to spot, assess, and diagnose to improve patient outcomes.

A fresh approach to patient care brings cognitive health care to the forefront of standard health care practices.

 

Discussing the Importance of Cognitive Health Care With Patients

While health care experts understand the importance of cognitive health, many patients are still skeptical. It’s important to take an empathetic approach to introducing cognitive health to patients and to give them context so they can be active participants in their own health care journey.

  • For healthy patients, it’s about integrating proactive cognitive health care into routine health care practices. First, this approach helps identify any undiagnosed cognitive issues. Second, it establishes a baseline for longitudinal monitoring to understand how brain health is changing over time. This ensures that any change is detected early when cognitive issues are often more treatable.
  • For patients with emerging health concerns, a cognitive functioning baseline offers personalized care. Modern cognitive assessments can be interpreted in relation to population norms and personalized benchmark data. Any change in function can be represented with an objective measure and provide a diagnostic aid. This type of assessment may even be able to uncover early warning signs before the patient notices any subjective changes. Having a baseline is an invaluable tool for patient-centered care.
  • For patients with clear health concerns, monitoring cognitive function means offering more effective treatments. Cognitive assessments can be used to provide an objective measure to understand the effectiveness of treatments, and the outcomes can be shared with patients so they can be involved in making informed decisions about their treatment. In the case of complex issues, long-term monitoring can make a huge difference in being able to notice significant changes early on.
Initiating conversations around cognitive health prior to taking any actions or requiring a test can put patients at ease without the automatic assumption that “something must be wrong.

 

Picking a Cognitive Health Care Solution

The common theme when it comes to cognitive health care is ensuring doctors have access to solutions that allow them to not only measure cognitive function but track how it changes over time. Patients are significantly more likely to complete a cognitive assessment on an engaging, self-guided, and telehealth-friendly platform. It’s even better if that solution produces results that are easy to understand. It makes conversations with patients, families, and other specialists to understand.

 

Administering a Cognitive Assessment

 

Pre-Assessment

Prior to patients taking the assessment, it’s helpful to review and explain:

  • The importance of cognitive health
  • The reasons we monitor cognitive health over time
  • The type of assessment the patient will be taking
  • What the assessment will determine
  • Directions for the assessment

 

Post-Assessment

Many patients have anxiety about any type of health test, so it’s important to review and discuss their results with them and let them know what happens next. Every health care provider should establish their own criteria for when to raise a concern with a patient based on their own professional training and contextual information about the patient. Interpreting trends and tracking progress will depend on patient objectives. For example, if the goal is to maintain brain health, then lack of change is a positive sign, whereas if the goal Is to demonstrate recovery, then seeing significant change is important. If there are more serious diagnoses to be discussed, it’s important to deliver news in a patient-centered manner, such as:

  • Identifying personhood, life goals, and care preferences
  • Telling the patient and their care team what they can expect over time
  • Providing ways to respond to these new changes to increase quality of life

cognitive-assessment-example-uses---report (1)

Take a peek at an example of an ideal cognitive assessment report

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Ongoing Assessment

Following the review of the latest results, the next steps depend on the standard of practice in the field and depend on the practitioner, clinic, and treatment modalities as well as the patient objectives.

For proactive monitoring in healthy patients, it’s important to encourage regular monitoring to:

  • Always have recent results to compare to
  • Catch any cognitive changes or symptoms early so they can be identified and treated before becoming a larger issue
  • Gain confidence that their most important organ—the brain—is being taken care of alongside all their other critical organs

For patients who need treatment for a disorder or condition, using an assessment can help validate a diagnosis and support ongoing treatment decisions by answering questions such as:

  • Which treatments are working?
  • How well are they working?
  • How can this experience be used to help other patients?
  • Do these results indicate a need to bring in another specialist?

Ultimately any patients with severe cognitive decline will need a specialist referral, and it's important in those situations to leverage objective data so the primary care provider and specialist can have a shared understanding of patient progress.

By clearly explaining every step of the assessment process, patients feel at ease and become more active participants in their care planning.

 

Simplify Cognitive Health Care

One of the most time-consuming challenges in cognitive health care is vetting solutions that increase and streamline access to care—so it’s helpful to narrow your search down to comprehensive tools with established success. Creyos, for example, offers a convenient, user-friendly, and scientifically validated cognitive assessment platform that provides objective and meaningful insights into patient brain health. The solution is easy to integrate into practice operations with numerous benefits for patients and providers.

 

Benefits for Patients

Creyos Health is an enjoyable cognitive assessment platform that provides:

  • An engaging experience with gamified tasks linked to specific brain regions
  • Self-guided assessments that can be taken remotely and with minimal supervision
  • Easy-to-understand results allowing patients and families to be more proactive in their care
  • Reimbursable evaluation under most insurance

 

Benefits for Providers

Creyos Health provides clinicians with a reliable and scientifically validated cognitive assessment report in as little as 15 minutes that:

  • Uses reliable measures of brain function with tasks that have been image mapped to the four main regions of the brain and used in over 300 peer-reviewed studies.
  • Is easy to use and implement across practices and with patients by using automated appointment scheduling.
  • Generates revenue with reimbursements using CPT codes for a variety of potentially new services
  • Includes standard mental health questionnaires for many self-report measures, built right into the platform
  • Is customizable to meet a variety of patient needs ranging from sound settings to time limits

Interested in learning more about reimbursement for Creyos Health in your practice?

Try our reimbursement calculator.

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Take a Proactive Approach to Cognitive Health Care With Creyos

Changes to cognition can be hard to recognize, and talking about cognition can leave patients feeling nervous due to fear of diagnosis or stigmatization. By opening up conversations around cognitive health care, patients are more likely to view this practice as a basic standard of care. Whether patients have concerns or not, taking a proactive approach by communicating the importance of brain health, preparing patients for upcoming assessments, and presenting results in a way they’re comfortable with will make a significant difference in your patients’ health outcomes.

 

Get the complete guide: How to Talk About Cognitive Health With Patients: A Guide to Broaching Sensitive Topics

 

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