Skip to main content

1 in 5 Adults Report Age Discrimination in Healthcare Settings

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   April 10, 2015

Compare that with pediatrics, which has its own subspecialists, wards, and dedicated hospitals, and good access to pediatricians, Rogers says. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics counts 91,915 pediatric-focused physicians in the United States, and says there's a still shortage of pediatric medical subspecialists in many fields, as well as a shortage of pediatric surgical specialists.

Although her study didn't look at how older adults were discriminated against, Rogers says patients who experience it may have worse communication from doctors or don't believe they're getting enough information from their doctors. In addition, the physical space of a building might not be accommodating for them in some way, or local providers might not offer care for their specific needs.

"They may be feeling they're not respected by the healthcare professional or the healthcare system," Rogers says.

Anecdotal reports reveal that people who are discriminated against often feel voiceless or invisible, but Rogers says that this study "shows that this is actually happening, and we need to figure out ways to fight this discrimination and level the playing field."

There are already proven ways to more effectively care for older adults; hospitals and health systems just aren't using them, Rogers contends.

She points to well-established, evidence-based care models such as Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) units and the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), which aims to prevent delirium. She says implementing programs like these may not only improve patient outcomes, but also save hospitals money and improve satisfaction scores.

Hospital 'ACE' Teams Curb Adverse Events, LOS, Costs

"These models exist, but very few hospitals actually use these models," Rogers says. "The hospital systems have not recognized the importance of them or implemented them."

Whatever the reason geriatrics is neglected and older adults are discriminated against, Rogers says it's something that the healthcare system needs to address, and urgently.

"Our nation is aging and we're going to have many, many older patients in our healthcare system. We need to find the models and use the models that exist to care for them better," she says. "This is neglected, and this needs to be a priority."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.