Health Advice

/

Health

Burden of getting medical care can exhaust older patients

Judith Graham, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Susanne Gilliam, 67, was walking down her driveway to get the mail in January when she slipped and fell on a patch of black ice.

Pain shot through her left knee and ankle. After summoning her husband on her phone, with difficulty she made it back to the house.

And then began the runaround that so many people face when they interact with America’s uncoordinated health care system.

Gilliam’s orthopedic surgeon, who managed previous difficulties with her left knee, saw her that afternoon but told her “I don’t do ankles.”

He referred her to an ankle specialist who ordered a new set of X-rays and an MRI. For convenience’s sake, Gilliam asked to get the scans at a hospital near her home in Sudbury, Massachusetts. But the hospital didn’t have the doctor’s order when she called for an appointment. It came through only after several more calls.

Coordinating the care she needs to recover, including physical therapy, became a part-time job for Gilliam. (Therapists work on only one body part per session, so she has needed separate visits for her knee and for her ankle several times a week.)

 

“The burden of arranging everything I need — it’s huge,” Gilliam told me. “It leaves you with such a sense of mental and physical exhaustion.”

The toll the American health care system extracts is, in some respects, the price of extraordinary progress in medicine. But it’s also evidence of the poor fit between older adults’ capacities and the health care system’s demands.

“The good news is we know so much more and can do so much more for people with various conditions,” said Thomas H. Lee, chief medical officer at Press Ganey, a consulting firm that tracks patients’ experiences with health care. “The bad news is the system has gotten overwhelmingly complex.”

That complexity is compounded by the proliferation of guidelines for separate medical conditions, financial incentives that reward more medical care, and specialization among clinicians, said Ishani Ganguli, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

...continued

swipe to next page

©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus