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Older Adults Suffer Due to Poor Care Coordination And Inadequate Communication Among Doctors

May 4, 2010

A national survey of Americans age 50 or older conducted by Lake Research Partners finds that most older adults, and particularly those with multiple chronic conditions, have experienced poor care coordination and a lack of information because their doctors aren’t talking to each other or to them. Among the survey’s most telling findings: 74 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. The survey was conducted for the Campaign for Better Care, whose goal is to improve the health care system for older adults and their family caregivers. The Campaign is led by the National Partnership for Women & Families, Community Catalyst and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). “These survey results underscore a problem that we simply must solve,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “Every day in this country, older patients leave hospitals without the information and supports they need to continue to recover at home, doctors prescribe new medications without warning patients about adverse reactions with the meds they already take and patients leave their doctor’s offices confused about their diagnoses and treatment…The new health reform law has the potential to make the improvements we need, but we must ensure that the new law is implemented in ways that help older adults and their family caregivers. If we can make our health system work for them, we can make it work for everyone. The Campaign for Better Care is organizing a powerful network of advocates to advance that goal.”

In the past two years, survey respondents said they have had to bring their doctors their X-rays, MRIs and other test results (30 percent of respondents overall and 35 percent of those with multiple chronic conditions); play the role of a communicator between doctors (29 percent of respondents); and unravel conflicting information from different doctors (one in five respondents). Nearly one in five expressed frustration about not having enough time with physicians.

Other key findings include:

40 percent of people who take five or more medications, 47 percent of heavy users of the health care system and one in three people age 50 or older say their doctors do not talk to them about potential interactions with other drugs or over-the-counter medications when prescribing new medications.
45 percent of heavy users of the health care system, 40 percent of those with multiple chronic conditions and 29 percent of respondents overall have had to act as a communicator between doctors who weren’t talking to each other.
13 percent have had to redo a test or procedure because the doctor or hospital did not have the earlier results.
76 percent of heavy users of the health care system have left a doctor’s office or hospital confused about what to do at home
76 percent of adults 50 and older say they are worried that the quality of health care services they receive will get worse in the future.

“When one in three respondents to our survey report that their doctors don’t talk to them about possible harmful interactions with other drugs when they are prescribed a new medication, it’s clear we still have a lot of work to do,” said Community Catalyst Executive Director Rob Restuccia. “We’re mobilizing a powerful consumer voice in the states to ensure that health reform is implemented in ways that ensure that patients will finally get the care they need and deserve.”

“This survey paints a picture of a health care system that is failing,” said NHeLP Executive Director Emily Spitzer. “Our goal with the “Campaign for Better Care” is to empower and engage patients and their caregivers, so we can ensure that reform delivers on its promise to vulnerable older patients and their families.” Learn more and read stories of patients who need better care at