What would really improve health care? In his blog on the Huffington Post published Sunday, February 6, 2011, Dr. Richard Besdine of Brown University offers one word: geriatrics.
In the context of health reform, Dr. Besdine eloquently presents the need for more geriatricians and more researchers and academics with geriatric expertise. They can produce knowledge, develop better models of care, and train physicians-to-be in the appropriate care of older adults–a population that represents the crux of any efforts to reduce health care costs and that is often the most vulnerable in our health care system. He points to the Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program, administered by the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) as one way of hooking medical students on geriatrics early in their education.
And how can a more geriatrics-expert workforce reduce health care spending? Dr. Besdine presents a compelling case that the elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that support innovative ways of delivering care are likely to be our best means of controlling spiraling health care costs. Most of those models rest solidly on the “pillars of modern geriatric practice”: patient-centered medical homes; interdisciplinary team care; better care coordination; safer transitions from hospital to home; and better palliative and end-of-life care.