Arrival of the Baby-Boom generation has created an unparalleled urgency for understanding and expanding our national geriatric medical service offerings. Within the next decade it is expected that our 60+ Population will more than quadruple [Census 2000].

The effect of this demographic shift will place additional pressure on healthcare providers-it is noted that Geriatric Specialists are already in short supply. Utilization of healthcare services and their associated cost will not only increase as healthcare inflation outpaces overall inflation, but will disproportionately increase as seniors take advantage of an expanding array of new technologies for managing chronic illness and promoting active lifestyles.

Provider reimbursement, changing Medicare and Medicaid regulations and uncertainty of our present Social Security and Healthcare funding add to the concern.

The Geriatric Working Group, formed under the IEEE-USA's Medical Technology Policy Committee, believes:

-- New incentives are needed to encourage physicians to enter Geriatric Care Specialization (technological offered efficiencies, financial incentives, regulatory changes);

-- Information technologies with enhanced communication capabilities need to be incorporated into patient care management;

-- Remote sensing should be utilized to promote efficient and effective patient management between office visits and encourage adoption of home self-care management programs, and

-- Payment methodologies and staff training need to be made more effective through the incorporation of innovative technological enhancements to current systems that support geriatric care.

As scientists, engineers and technologists, we believe that use of information technologies, combined with enhanced communication capabilities and use of remote biomedical monitoring can promote cost effective care management and improve patient safety.

Objectives

The Geriatrics Working Group is holding a one-day symposium on June 4 in Washington, DC. The objective of the symposium is to improve the role of computer, communication and other electronic technologies to improve the quality and cost-efficiency of geriatric care.

Workshop Themes

The growth in the geriatric population--those who qualify for Medicare by age or disability-- threatens cost increases the nation can ill afford. Information Technology, which includes both computer and communications technologies, are considered to offer the ability to improve patient outcomes while restraining overall healthcare cost increases. Support from the workshop panels illustrating this potential benefit is anticipated. Optimizing the use of the technological innovations introduced by our select panelists will require modification of our payment and staff training systems. These issues will be requested for discussion among panelists and attendees.

Panel participants will be asked to deliberate the issues above and allocate time to the panelists to:

-- Quantify the limitations they see in geriatric care

-- Identify strengths and weaknesses in the national geriatric care system and where found lacking, propose technical, legislative, or regulatory approaches for improving the efficiency and reducing costs for services

-- Identify technology alternatives for institutional care

-- Identify needed R&D

-- Address possible technological and policy-related means to assist in medically serving those with chronic illness and those whose access to medical services is limited by age-related handicaps

-- Identify the potential effect of the increasing shift to private insurance for seniors

-- Discuss the potential for home-grown technology applications vs. that available from overseas sources

-- Identify public policies aimed at offering incentives to those in the medical and public health services to focus on the geriatric issues and solutions

-- Identify the "Big Brother" Implications.

Workshop Report

The symposium findings and recommendations will be compiled in a single scientifically based report for legislators, policy experts and regulators to utilize during their deliberations that will identify the void in serving the healthcare needs of our aging population and will provide insight into how information technology, legislative and regulatory initiatives, and medical training and education changes can be applied to help fill the voids. The report will focus on the greatest opportunities for improvement, technology applications, public policy, and recommendations aimed at supporting a unified national home health care agenda.

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. Copyright 2004 IEEE

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