How Do We Care For an Aging Population With a Geriatrician Shortage?

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, one demographic shift stands out as both a triumph and a challenge: the aging population of America. As the nation’s population ages, the demand for specialized care for older adults has reached unprecedented levels. However, a looming crisis threatens to undermine our ability to meet the unique healthcare needs of this burgeoning demographic — a geriatrician shortage. Not only is there a current shortage of geriatric physicians but, “Prospective physicians are more interested in other specialties”, leaving the future of geriatric care in question.

Dr. Osvaldo Navia, WVUM’s Division Chief of Geriatrics, Palliative Medicine and Hospice shared that by 2030, the U.S. will have more than 20 million people over the age of 65. Dr. Navia goes on to estimate that a geriatric population of that magnitude would need around 27,000 geriatricians across the country to provide effective care. According to trends shown by the U.S. Resources and Services Administration, there will only be 6,230 geriatricians by 2025 — quite a lot less than the amount needed to offer proper care.

With this problem in mind, we asked the Figure 1 community for their thoughts. Here is what more than 300 healthcare professionals had to say.

Would You Consider Specializing in Geriatric Care?

Given that the main concern is a shortage of physicians wanting to specialize in geriatric care, we asked the Figure 1 community if they had ever considered specializing in geriatrics. The results leaned in favor of Dr. Navia’s proposal that most HCPs don’t want to get involved in geriatric care. Of our respondents, 45% said they have considered specializing in geriatric care, whereas the majority of 55% said no.

How Do We Solve the Problem?

The lack of geriatric care is a problem that will only continue to grow if nothing is done to combat it. So, we asked the Figure 1 community for their thoughts on a solution. Most specifically, we asked if more geriatric care training should be taught to primary care physicians in their standard training. There was an overwhelming majority of 91% who said yes, primary care physicians should have more geriatric care training.

Aside from supporting more training for primary care specialists, our respondents had a variety of interesting ideas for solutions. One registered nurse claimed they, “think this is a field where supplementary courses in geriatrics could provide internists or family practice docs nearing retirement themselves a chance to continue working, especially if part-time positions were created.” Another respondent stated, “It all boils down to money. Currently, you get paid less than an internist or family practice physician to do geriatrics.” 

Whether it is a lack of training for geriatric care or simply a lack of compensation for geriatric care physicians, is it clear why the geriatrician shortage exists. However, while it is easier said than done, the solution seems to be quite apparent — if the field of geriatric care is to be improved it needs more resourcing and support.

Published January 8, 2024

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