The following is a guest post from Ted Zimmer, a community organizer with the Consumer Health Coalition in Pittsburgh:
The month of May has been deemed Older Americans Month and as a result a host of possible senior-related topics could be up for discussion. However, you can make the argument that no issue right now is more urgent that ensuring the recently enacted reforms to our health care system are implemented in a way that protects and promotes the health and well-being of older Americans.
Whether you are speaking with patients, providers, or caregivers one thing seems to come through loud and clear: we need to change the way we deliver health care. A recent survey of adults aged 50 and older, conducted by Lake Research Partners for the Campaign for Better Care, found that about 75 percent of respondents have wished that their doctors talked and shared information with each other, and 36 percent of heavy users of the health care system say they have received conflicting information from different doctors. We can do better!
The Campaign for Better Care is a new national initiative that aims to ensure that our reformed health care system provides the comprehensive and coordinated care that older adults with multiple health problems need and deserve. Consumer Health Coalition is proud to be a part of the new Pennsylvania Campaign for Better Care, which recognizes that older adults with multiple health problems, in particular, need doctors, nurses and other health providers who talk to each other and work together – along with the patient and their family caregivers – as a team. The Campaign is working for better coordinated care to help avoid medical errors, duplicative tests, and wasted time and costs – and for services and supports in their communities to enhance the quality of life for older people with chronic care needs and their families.
The Campaign for Better Care is advocating at the federal and state levels to ensure that new models of delivering care are patient- and family-centered, team-based, and include important services like geriatric assessment, care planning, comprehensive care coordination, transition management between care settings, medication management, and community support for older adults and their family caregivers. It supports payment strategies that bolster primary care practices and reward better quality, coordination and communication among health providers, patients and family caregivers. Consumer Health Coalition and our statewide partners in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Better Care whole-heartedly support this agenda.
When Older Americans Month was established 47 years ago, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. Today, there are nearly 40 million adults age 65 and older. And with the aging of the baby boom generation – the largest in our history – the U.S. older population is expected to grow to 71.5 million by 2030. And when the first baby boomers turn age 65 in 2011 they will become eligible for Medicare. Will health reform translate into the comprehensive and coordinated care that older adults with multiple health problems need and deserve?
If the Campaign for Better Care is successful, the answer will be yes. So this May, as we celebrate older Americans, I hope that, like me, you will join a month-long public education drive to spread the word about the need for better coordinated, patient- and family-centered care. Click here to join up and become active in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Better Care