Improving Care For Older Adults

Improving Care For Older Adults With Complex Needs

Findings from the 2016 Commonwealth Fund Survey of High-Need Patients

The 2016 Commonwealth Fund Survey of High-Need Patients revealed that while 95 percent of patients with complex needs have regular access to care, 58 percent of the patients with complex needs did not have a care coordinator helping them navigate the system, and 62 percent experienced stress about their ability to afford housing, utilities, or nutritious meals. Those unmet needs are part of the reason that 47 percent of the patients with complex needs visited the emergency department (ED) multiple times in the previous two years.

All too often, older adults in the United States with complex needs encounter a fragmented system that is ill-equipped to help them handle three, four, or even five chronic conditions simultaneously. Instead of a single patient receiving care that’s coordinated, he or she might have a general practitioner treating diabetes, an orthopedic specialist treating foot pain, and yet another health professional—an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist—treating tinnitus. This sort of disorganized, unplanned care is all too common—as well as expensive and ineffective. Such care costs our health care system millions of dollars each year while often forcing patients to make multiple ED visits in short order.

The 2016 Commonwealth Fund Survey of High-Need Patients was conducted by SSRS from June 22 to September 14, 2016, as a part of SSRS’s weekly, nationally representative omnibus survey.