Urgent Changes Are Needed…NOW!
With 75 Million aging baby boomers nearing their ‘silver years’, urgent changes are needed to prepare doctors to care for aging America.
Leading medical policy experts are calling for drastic changes at multiple levels to assure the increasing number of geriatric patients in the United States will be properly treated. The basic education policy is the first step to this change.
To ensure a properly trained physician workforce as the demand for geriatric care swells and the number of geriatric specialists shrinks, policy options proposed by the experts include: Increasing funding for geriatrics in medical schools; Leveraging Medicare’s educational subsidy to strengthen geriatrics in residency and fellowship programs; and Requiring practicing physicians to complete geriatric continuing education credits in order to maintain their state licensures and Medicaid provider certifications.
“With just one geriatrician for every 10,000 adults over 75, primary care physicians are being called on to provide geriatric care for our rapidly aging population,” said Dr. Boult, director of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
He continues to say, “But most of today’s primary care physicians are not adequately trained to provide the complex care needed by older adults with multiple chronic conditions. In fewer than 20 years, one of every five Americans will be over 65, amounting to more than 70 million people. We need to act now, and act aggressively, to improve the geriatric education of all physicians.”
Problems are occurring because of ill prepared physicians and many elderly patients state dissatisfaction with the care they have received from their physicians. Many feel they have been harmed by untrained physicians trying to deal with their very specialized geriatric needs.
In the late 1990’s Dr. Edward Schneider, dean of the Andrus Gerontology Center at University of Southern California repeatedly told his colleagues: “Officially or unofficially, you will be in geriatrics by the end of the century unless you are a pediatrician or an obstetrician. The average age of your patients in the early 2000’s will be 65 or older.”
This prediction has more than come true. At the present time, people over age 65 represent about 14 percent of the U.S. population. This group consumes one-third of healthcare services and occupies one-half of all physician time.
Only three of the nation’s 145 medical schools have a full-scale department of geriatrics that requires a mandatory rotation in geriatrics for students and residents, and less than 3 percent of all medical students take even one course in geriatrics.
The change is long overdue and hopefully, will come in time to adequately serve our growing population of elderly residents.