To examine the relationship between dementia status and receipt of eye care among US Medicare beneficiaries.
Retrospective, claims-based analysis.
A 20% representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries who received care between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2015.
Dementia was identified from diagnosis codes documented in a beneficiary's first 3 years of observed Medicare enrollment. Eye care visits were identified from provider specialty codes on each encounter claim. We used multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models with time-varying covariates to compare the likelihood of receiving eye care between beneficiaries with and without dementia. All models were adjusted for potential confounders, including demographics, urban/rural residence, systemic health (Charlson Index), and ocular comorbidities.
Main outcome measures
Hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for (1) being seen by any eye care provider (ophthalmologist or optometrist); (2) being seen by an ophthalmologist specifically; and (3) receiving cataract surgery (among beneficiaries with ophthalmologist encounters).
A total of 4 451 200 beneficiaries met inclusion criteria; 3 805 718 (85.5%) received eye care during the study period, and 391 556 (8.8%) had diagnosed dementia. Some 73.4% of beneficiaries diagnosed with dementia saw an eye care provider during the study period and 55.4% saw an ophthalmologist versus 86.7% and 74.0% of beneficiaries, respectively, without dementia diagnoses. Compared with those without dementia diagnoses, beneficiaries with diagnosed dementia had lower likelihood of seeing any eye care provider (adjusted HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.69-0.70) and were less likely to see an ophthalmologist (adjusted HR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.55-0.55). Among the subset of beneficiaries who did see ophthalmologists, those with diagnosed dementia were also less likely to receive cataract surgery than beneficiaries without diagnosed dementia (HR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.62-0.63) and less likely to receive a cataract diagnosis (18% vs. 82%).
US Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with dementia are less likely to receive eye care than those without diagnosed dementia. Depending on visual acuity and functional status, this may have implications for injury prevention, physical and cognitive function, and quality of life. Further work is needed to identify barriers to receiving eye care, determine eye care services and settings that provide greatest value to patients with dementia, and implement measures to improve access to appropriate eye care.