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Older Americans have easy access to specialists, survey finds

November 20, 2014
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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The world is aging at an incredible pace, with older adults having more chronic disease and disability. Using a computer-assisted telephone survey of the healthcare experiences among 15,617 of older adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, researchers found that U.S. seniors were sicker than older adults in any of the participating countries.

The study, supported by the Commonwealth Fund, showed that out-of-pocket expenses were harder for older Americans to cover. U.S. respondents, however, were among the most likely to have discussed positive health behaviors with a clinician and have a health regimen that fit into their daily lives.  

Researchers analyze the answers of the respondents from the 11 countries and found:

  • Older adults in France and New Zealand (83 percent) and 81 percent of older Germans could schedule same- or next-day appointments, while only 57 percent of American respondents had quick access. In Canada, only 45 percent had same- or next-day access.
  • In access to specialists, the reverse was true, with 86 percent of Americans waiting less than four weeks for an appointment, with the exception of Switzerland (82 percent).
  • In the area of care coordination, 23 percent of Americans reported that test results were unavailable at their physician’s office. They also reported test duplication.
  • Americans were found to be the least likely to experience gaps in post-hospital discharge planning.

Because Americans 65 years of age and older were surveyed and covered by Medicare and other insurance, the authors were able “to compare the U.S. healthcare delivery system with…other industrialized nations.”

The entire study will appear in the December issue of Health Affairs.