Senator Collins Stresses Urgent Need to Increase Number of Geriatric Doctors, Nurses, and Other Health Professionals
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Washington, D.C. –The Senate Health Committee held a hearing yesterday to examine the role primary care plays in helping to lower health costs and improve outcomes, and to explore innovative ways to improve access to affordable primary care.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Committee, questioned Dr. Katherine Bennett, an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, on the urgent need to grow our geriatric workforce and how an increased focus on geriatric care could also reduce unnecessary health care costs.
“The statistics are really startling,” said Senator Collins. “We only have 7,300 geriatricians who are board certified. We need about 20,000 today, and we're going to need 30,000 by the year 2030.”
Senator Collins asked Dr. Bennett to explain how a geriatric-capable workforce increases the affordability of care while improving health outcomes.
“[Geriatric care] can prevent falls. We can keep people living independently in their homes by [taking] good care of people with dementia, helping support their chronic diseases. Geriatrics is just made to save money,” Dr. Bennett replied.
Dr. Bennett discussed research that has successfully linked geriatrics training to high-quality, cost saving health care. Despite researchers’ efforts, however, these findings have not received the attention they deserve.
“As a result, older adults suffer from preventable falls; preventable delirium (confusion) in the hospital; undertreatment of important conditions (such as osteoporosis); and overtreatment with medications and other interventions that do not improve their health, quality of life, or ability to maintain independence,” said Dr. Bennett.
In her capacity as the Education Lead for the Northwest Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Center, Dr. Bennett thanked Senators Collins and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee, for introducing the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act last week to increase the number of geriatric health professionals and direct service workers to support our aging population. Senators Collins and Casey’s bill would reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) at $45 million per year over the next five years and also reinstate the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards program (GACA) at $6 million per year.
Click HERE to watch the full hearing.