CHICAGO, Dec. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Alzheimer's Association releases guidance to help health care providers detect cognitive impairment as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. While physicians are required to include detection of cognitive impairment as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit, until today there has been no comprehensive guidance to physicians on how to accomplish that. Detecting possible cognitive impairment is the first step in determining whether or not further evaluation is needed. In developing the recommendations, the Alzheimer's Association convened a group of experts to survey the current literature and build consensus around an effective, practical and easy process that could be used in the primary care setting. The recommendations will be released by the Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association as an article in press online in advance of the hard copy publication . "We understand that by assessing and documenting cognitive status on an annual basis during the Annual Wellness Visit, clinicians can more easily monitor gradual cognitive decline in a patient over time," said Bill Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association chief medical scientific officer. "Through this workgroup process, we now have a comprehensive recommendation for a brief, step-by-step process to detect cognitive impairment that includes tools for patients and family members as well as an emphasis on vital patient history, self-reported concerns and clinician observations." According to the Alzheimer's Association's 2012 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, among the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease, as many as half have not been diagnosed. Without initial detection, these individuals would not be diagnosed which would deprive them of available treatments and services as well as the opportunity to make financial and care plans. "Widespread use of the steps identified by the Alzheimer's Association Medicare Detection of Cognitive Impairment Workgroup could make significant inroads in reducing the prevalence of missed or delayed dementia diagnosis by either establishing a baseline for cognitive surveillance or a trigger for further diagnostic evaluation," Thies added.