Physician Diagnosis and Knowledge of Mild Cognitive Impairment

J Alzheimers Dis. 2022;85(1):273-282. doi: 10.3233/JAD-210565.


Background: Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) receive fewer guideline-concordant treatments for multiple health conditions than those with normal cognition. Reasons for this disparity are unclear.

Objective: To better understand this disparity, we describe physician understanding and experience with patient MCI, particularly physician identification of MCI, ability to distinguish between MCI and dementia, and perspectives on education and training in MCI and dementia.

Methods: As part of a mixed-methods study assessing the influence of patient MCI on physician recommendations for acute myocardial infraction and stroke treatments, we conducted a descriptive qualitative study using semi-structured interviews of physicians from three specialties. Key question topics included participants' identification of MCI, impressions of MCI and dementia awareness within their practice specialty, and perspectives on training and education in MCI.

Results: The study included 22 physicians (8 cardiologists, 7 neurologists, and 7 internists). We identified two primary themes: There is 1) a lack of adequate understanding of the distinction between MCI and dementia; and 2) variation in physician approaches to identifying whether an older adult has MCI.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that physicians have a poor understanding of MCI. Our results suggest that interventions that improve physician knowledge of MCI are needed.

Keywords: Cognition; dementia; diagnosis; physician knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multimorbidity
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Physicians*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires