Experts predict that by 2030, seniors will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population. And the medical community is not prepared to care for them. To adequately serve the current population of senior patients, the U.S. would need at least 17,000 geriatricians. At present, we have around 7,500.
This shortage is due, in part, to economic factors as well as legislative burdens, both of which may intimidate and deter prospective professionals.
Medicare covers most seniors, and they typically pay providers lower reimbursement rates. That means geriatricians, on average, could earn less than other specialists, despite the fact that they have years of additional training, and the student loans to match.
However, Medicare offers other benefits—such as payment incentives, rate transparency, prompt payments and reliable patient volume—which could offset lower reimbursement rates, by some estimates.
Changing legal standards, like those imposed by Stark Law in 1989 and updated by Stark II and Stark III later, also may make it more difficult for skilled professionals to use their knowledge in nursing homes or other in-need facilities.
Meanwhile, the American Geriatric Society has called out for the critical need in these areas:
- Assurance that every senior citizen receives the same level of high-quality patient care.
- Expansion of geriatric care knowledge across the country
- Improvement of the number of geriatric specialists in the U.S., so there are enough professionals to care for senior patients
- Recruitment of other medical professionals into careers that specialize in geriatric care.
- Advancement of public and professional policy to ensure improved health care for geriatric patients
As medical students consider their specialty path and private practices look to expand or diversify, there are many factors to consider. As it comes to billing challenges, such as navigating the complexities of insurance reimbursements, patient payments and regulatory compliance, providers can now leverage software designed specifically for independent practices and specialists. Many find that outsourcing their billing and revenue cycle management altogether more than makes up for the cost of the service, by decreasing administrative workload, increasing time with patients and tracking revenue health.
With technology and expert services available to address concerns around patient care documentation, billing and financial stability, those considering geriatric care can be free to look at other factors, such as the increasing demand, the professional growth, or even the personal reasons of making a positive impact on one of the most vulnerable patient populations.