To the Editor:
Probably the single most effective strategy in reducing our national spending on health care is preventing and/or delaying the progression of aging-related chronic diseases, which now account for more than 75% of Medicare and other federal health expenditures.1 Primary care geriatricians can be leaders in carrying out this strategy, finding answers to our impending health care crisis and being a major part of the solution. But the shortage of geriatricians becomes greater each year.
Geriatrics primary care is cost-effective and emphasizes preventive medicine. Those who provide primary care for seniors specialize in consolidating and coordinating fragmented care for the elderly. The goal in geriatrics is not to prevent death at any cost but, rather, to maintain or enhance the quality of life for as long as possible.
The question for medical educators is, How do we interest our young trainees to understand and appreciate the need for primary care for the elderly sooner? Every medical school needs to seriously consider increasing exposure to geriatrics content in the curriculum and encouraging our young trainees to do what is needed most.
Jeanne Y. Wei, MD, PhD
Executive director, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging; professor and chair, Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine; and staff physician, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, all in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1. Thorpe KE, Ogden LL, Galactionova K. Chronic conditions account for rise in Medicare spending from 1987 to 2006. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010;29:718–724.