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Doctors Need Better Training in Geriatric Care

Aging boomers mean specialists' focus is shifting to seniors, study warns

FRIDAY, March 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- As America's population ages, medical schools are falling short in training specialists in aspects of geriatric care, a new study warns.

"Until recently, most physician visits by geriatric patients were to primary-care providers. The changing needs of the geriatric population have shifted that trend. Now, more than 50 percent of all outpatient visits by geriatric patients are to non-primary-care specialists," lead author Elizabeth Bragg, of the University of Cincinnati's Institute for the Study of Health, said in a prepared statement.

That means non-primary-care specialists are having to deal with more and more visits from older adults, she said.

The Cincinnati study found that in 2001, 53 percent of outpatient visits by people 65 and older were to non-primary-care specialists -- up 13 percent from 1980. Experts estimate that by 2030, there will be more than 70 million people age 65 and older in the United States.

Bragg and her colleagues reviewed the program requirements of 91 specialties in 2003 and found that only 27 had specific geriatric training requirements.

"In other words, 70 percent of the graduate medical education specialties training non-pediatric physicians do not have specific geriatrics curriculum requirements," she said. "Yet once these physicians establish their clinical practices, many adults over the age of 65 will become their patients," the study authors wrote in the March issue of the journal Academic Medicine.

"We know there's a shortage of trained geriatric specialists in the United States," study co-author Dr. Gregg Warshaw, professor of geriatric medicine and family medicine, added in a prepared statement. "It only makes sense that we improve geriatric education within medical specialties in order to achieve a well-trained physician workforce prepared to handle the medical needs of this population."

More information

The U.S. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has details on healthy aging.

SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, news release, Feb. 25, 2005
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