The prevalence of multiple chronic conditions and the transitions of care between settings distinguish the health care of older adults and complicate the integration of their care. For most people in the United States, the office of a physician is the major platform of health care delivery and a natural location from which agreed-upon goals and management plans can be sustained in a continuous healing relationship with a trusted clinician. Increasing age is associated with greater use of a variety of other care settings, requiring a more sophisticated role for primary care (see accompanying table and figure).1,2
|65 to 74 years of age||75 to 84 years of age||85 years of age and older||65 years of age and older†|
|Any home care services||33||99||245||74|
|Formal home care||37||87||133||65|
This extension of the ecology model of health care2 to include institutionalized older patients demonstrates a dramatic shift of care to long-term care facilities, emergency departments, and in-home services. As new models of primary care are elaborated3 they must incorporate systems that integrate the care of older patients, many of whom will not be seen in the office setting. Older people and their families need a physician who sticks with them and whom they can trust to ensure safe health care transitions that are faithful to their needs and goals.