Recently, when assisting a client to find nursing home placement, our company conducted research on the number of geriatric care physicians in the Atlanta area. Geriatrics is the study of the elderly population and these physicians specialize in conditions and diseases that are common in seniors. Not only do they provide medical care, but many times they function as social worker and friend all rolled into one.
The research found some suprising results. With the exception of Wesley Woods Geriatric Hospital, there are only about 15 geriatricians in the Atlanta area. This includes those as far out as Griffin and Peachtree City.
When speaking with a local geriatricians office, the staff stated that they specifically started their practice in the South Metro area because it was one of the largest concentration of elderly in the Southeast. So the question remains as to why there are so few practices in our area.
According to a recent article in Florida Times Union by Jeremy Cox, geriatric practices have decreased 12% since 2000 and continue to decline each year. This can be mainly attributed to the lack of reimbursement that these providers, who are some of the lowest paid specialties, receive from the federal government.
In the evolving heath care debate it would seem that having more geriatric physicians in our area would lower health care cost in the long run by keeping our elderly citizens healthier and preventing their Medicare dollars from being exhausted as they go into extended hospital and nursing home stays to combat their health issues. It also seems that this is an oxymoron being that the lowest paid specialties can have the greatest impact on Medicare spending and thus the outcome of the new health care plan in Congress.