However, the 3 percent of patients who received some degree of care from a geriatrician in the prior year were less likely to be inappropriately prescribed.
Such patients were more likely to be white, older, coping with more physical and/or mental health issues, and following a broader prescription drug regimen, the authors observed.
Yet, Pugh and her colleagues cautioned that simply visiting with an elderly care specialist might not offer equal protection to all patients.
They noted that those getting geriatric care in VA settings, where few patients were treated by geriatricians, appeared to face a higher risk for medication mishaps, relative to elderly patients seeing geriatric or non-geriatric care at facilities with a larger overall percentage of geriatrician-treated patients.
The authors stressed, however, that much more research is needed to determine how clearly prescription risk is affected by a facility's patient profile or geriatric system set-up.
"Meanwhile, we need to reevaluate the kind of care we provide to older patients," said Pugh. "And we need to train more geriatricians, because part of the problem is that there aren't a lot of geriatricians in the U.S., and we're not going to have enough to handle all the patients' needs as the baby boomers come into the system."
Dr. James S. Goodwin, director of the Sealy Center on Aging and a geriatrics professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, agreed.
"The number of geriatricians has decreased over the past 10 years, at a time when we are going to need more," he noted. "And that is because consulting with a geriatrician is extremely valuable, in that patients tend to accumulate medicines as they grow older, and a geriatrician will come to a first meeting with a bias to discover those drugs that the patient no longer needs. So, you get an important
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