KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Care On The Home Front: Telemedicine Helps Seniors; Pediatricians Seeing Young Adults

As part of a special section on aging, The Washington Post reports on telemedicine for seniors: "Imagine a 75-year-old receiving wireless medication reminders, straight to his beeping wristband. ... Although developers and advocates have promoted telemedicine for years, Alice Borelli of Intel points to barriers -- including Medicare reimbursement policies and inadequate broadband in parts of the country -- that have kept telemedicine a mostly conceptual solution. … Telemedicine can't replace hospitals or nursing homes, but it can delay the need for them." Telemedicine could help fill an increasing need: "A 2007 study showed a 20 percent decline in the ranks of certified geriatricians over 10 years; only 11 percent of medical schools require students to complete a geriatrics rotation" (Egan, 8/10).

Separately, Modern Healthcare reports, on changes in patients' physician choices. "The concentration of middle-aged and older patients visiting doctors' offices increased between 1998 and 2008, and, between 1978 and 2008, the majority of visits by senior citizens shifted from primary-care doctors to specialists, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report based on data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey" (Robeznieks, 8/9).

Meanwhile, NPR reports on how some companies are trying to ease the challenges workers face when providing end-of-life care to a loved one. "Juggling a caregiving role with a full-time job is daunting. But it can be even more difficult working during the end stages of a loved one's life. Some companies are exploring end-of-life initiatives to help their employees manage the ultimate transition. … A report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 1 in 5 caregivers had to take a leave of absence from work. And during the dying process in those critical months before death, employee productivity becomes dicey at best. … Pitney Bowes - along with General Electric, PepsiCo and IBM - is working with the National Business Group on Health to design an end-of-life toolkit for employers" (Martin, 8/10).

The Wall Street Journal, on the other end of the age spectrum: "These days, more young adults are staying with their pediatricians at least through their college years, says David Tayloe, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who still practices in Goldsboro, N.C. Even though most colleges have health services on campus, when students are home for weekends and holidays and need a doctor, the pediatrician's office may be staffed when the adult-oriented internist's office isn't. 'We're cheaper and nicer and easier to get a hold of,' says Katherine Karlsrud, a Manhattan pediatrician ... Some major medical centers have opened young-adult clinics to help ease the transition" (Beck, 8/10).

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