Doctors are falling short in the primary care they offer Americans age 65 and older, says a new poll.
This is not about expensive medical procedures -- just some basic questions and interventions that could protect against future health problems as we age.
The new survey, from the John H. Hartford Foundation, looked at whether seniors had received seven services that would support "healthy aging."
The seven included:
- an annual medication review,
- a falls risk assessment and history,
- depression screening,
- referral to community-based health resources, and
- discussion of their ability to perform routine daily tasks and activities without help.
Since January 2011, Medicare covers a free, annual wellness visit during which these seven questions should be asked, yet doctors aren't asking. Even more troubling, 68 percent of adults surveyed said they had not heard of the benefit or were not sure if they had heard of it.
The survey also found that only a tiny number -- 7 percent -- of older adults surveyed received all seven recommended services. Fifty two percent said they received none or only one, and 76 percent received fewer than half.
Falls cause more than 2 million injuries in those age 65 and older, yet more than two-thirds of patients said their doctors and nurses didn't ask whether they had fallen or tripped recently, and less than 20 percent said they had been given advice on ways to prevent potentially dangerous falls.
This is not to say that older adults are dissatisfied with their care. The vast majority reported being satisfied with their primary care providers.
But Christopher Langston, program director of the Hartford foundation, thinks doctors need to do better caring for their older patients.
Asking the seven questions included in the survey is the type of low-cost, low-tech geriatric care that can lower patients' risk of a number of preventable health problems that "erode quality of life, increase health care costs, cause disability and even kill," he said in a statement.
"Older adults are not just older 40-year-olds. Older people need different care, and when they don't receive these kinds of evidence-based interventions, as many don't, the result is a lot of preventable disability and suffering," Langston said.
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