WHERE HAVE ALL THE GERIATRICIANS GONE?
September 2, 2005
America's 77 million baby boomers will soon have a difficult time finding geriatricians - doctors that specialize in the needs of elderly patients -- according to the Dallas Morning News (DMN). Over the next 25 years, the number of people aged 65 and over will double, and many will have chronic health conditions specific to the elderly.
But a shortage of geriatricians is looming, says the DMN:
- The United States needs 20,000 geriatricians but has fewer than 7,000; by 2030, the nation will need 36,000 geriatricians but may have as few as 11,000.
- Furthermore, training staff is in short supply; of 100,000 medical school faculty, fewer than 1,000 list geriatrics as their specialty; fewer than half of medical schools incorporate geriatrics into their undergraduate curriculum.
- Due to their dependence on Medicare reimbursements, geriatricians make an average of $155,000 a year -- less than half of what cardiologists and other medical specialists do.
Geriatricians are trained in family or internal medicine, yet they also recognize problems that may be missed by nonspecialists in the field. For example, an elderly person who falls and breaks an ankle will be treated for the ankle, but may also be evaluated for conditions that might have caused the fall, such as poor vision, or a combination of prescriptions resulting in dizziness.
Lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation which would adjust Medicare's payments to compensate doctors for the time they spend on geriatric patients.
Source: Bob Moos, "Aging baby boomers outpace trained doctors: With few physicians specializing in geriatrics, experts fear a medical crisis," Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2005.
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