June 2, 2015

Findings of Commonwealth Fund Survey on Patient Care for Older Adults

 Worried senior woman caring with sick husband

General view

A survey was carried out among older people from 11 different countries and it revealed that adults in the U.S are sicker compared to those living abroad. In addition to that, the study showed that U.S sick adults have a higher chance of facing problems with regard to paying their medical bills and accessing the health care they need. It went ahead to report that these patients faced a challenge of accessing emergency departments when they required care from primary care physicians.

The main concern

The national health systems worldwide must care for the aging especially because they are normally faced with disability and various chronic illnesses. Older people are particularly exposed to many of the flaws found in the health care system due to the fact that they receive care from many providers, are required to take numerous prescriptions and have an intricate care regimen to follow. This puts them at a higher risk of both physical harm and expensive costs of health care. The survey funded by commonwealth was carried out on adults of 65 years old and above from 11 different countries with the aim of gaining a better understanding of how the health systems operate with regards to providing care to older adults. It also aimed at understanding the areas with performance gap and the various policy reforms that can be put in place to improve the situation.

Main Findings

  • -The United States had the biggest percentage of chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and so on. 87% of older adults living in the U.S were diagnosed with at least one chronic disease while 68% had two or more.
  • -U.S adults aged 65 and above almost certainly reported difficulties in covering their care expenses in spite of having Medicare coverage. 19% of them which made up a fifth of the surveyed population said they couldn’t visit a doctor, afford the recommended treatment or even go for a medical test due to inability to cover the costs involved.
  • -11% of the U.S survey respondents almost certainly had problems clearing their medical bills. Only 1% of the surveyed population in both Sweden and Norway made the same claim.
  • -Respondents from Norway, Canada, U.S, and Sweden had the least chances of getting a same day or the next day doctor’s appointment. They are also the ones who had the most difficulties in getting after-hours care with no help from the emergency department.
  • -Older adults in every single country faced problems of care coordination and safety. 35% of the older adults in the U.S experienced at least one problem related to care coordination. Examples of these problems include failure to get a recommended medical test, lack of or inadequate communication between a specialist and a primary care doctor, getting contradicting medical information from different doctors and so on. At least one fifth of older adults in every country except France can testify to at least having one of these challenges.