African Americans are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) but barriers to optimal clinical care are unclear.
To comprehensively evaluate potential racial differences in the diagnosis and treatment of AD in an academic medical center.
We used the clinical informatics tool, i2b2, to analyze all patient encounters for AD or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System over a three-year period, examining neuroimaging rates and dementia-related medication use by race and clinic site using ratio tests on contingency tables of stratified patient counts.
Enterprise-wide, African Americans were not underrepresented among outpatients seen for AD/MCI. However, there were differences in the clinic setting where visits occurred, with African Americans overrepresented in Geriatrics and primary care clinics and underrepresented in Memory Disorders specialty clinics. There were no racial differences in the rates at which any clinic ordered PET neuroimaging tests or dementia-related medications. However, unsurprisingly, specialty clinics ordered both PET neuroimaging and dementia-related medications at a higher rate than primary care clinics, and overall across the medical enterprise, African Americans were statistically less likely to have PET neuroimaging or dementia-related medications ordered.
African Americans with AD/MCI were not underrepresented at this academic medical center but were somewhat less likely to have PET neuroimaging or to be on dementia-related medications, potentially in part from underrepresentation in the specialty clinics where these orders are more likely. The reasons for this underrepresentation in specialty clinics are likely multifactorial and important to better understand.