Objectives: To compare primary care providers' (PCPs') perceptions about dementia and its care within their healthcare organization with perceptions of other common chronic conditions and to explore factors associated with differences.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Three California healthcare organizations.
Participants: One hundred sixty-four PCPs.
Measurements: PCPs' views about primary care for dementia were analyzed and compared with views about care for heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and selected other conditions. Differences in views about conditions according to PCP type (internists, family physicians) were assessed. Multivariate analysis examined relationships between provider and practice characteristics and views about dementia care.
Results: More PCPs strongly agreed that older patients with dementia are difficult to manage (23.8%) than for heart disease (5.0%) or diabetes mellitus (6.3%); PCPs can improve quality of life for heart disease (58.9%) and diabetes mellitus (61.6%) than for dementia (30.9%); older patients should be routinely screened for heart disease (63.8%) and diabetes mellitus (67.7%) than dementia (55.5%); and their organizations have expertise/referral resources to manage diabetes mellitus (49.4%) and heart disease (51.8%) than dementia (21.1%). More PCPs reported almost effortless organizational care coordination for heart disease (13.0%) or diabetes mellitus (13.7%) than for dementia (5.6%), and a great deal or many opportunities for improvement in their ability to manage dementia (50.6%) than incontinence, depression, or hypertension (7.4-34.0%; all P<.05). Internists' views regarding dementia care were less optimistic than those of family physicians, but PCP type was unrelated to views on diabetes mellitus or heart disease.
Conclusion: Improving primary care management of dementia should directly address PCP concerns about expertise and referral resources, difficulty of care provision, and PCP views about prospects for patient improvement.