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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(7):1105

The ecology of medical care changes for older people, with increases in usage of residential and institutional care, emergency departments, and home care. Care integrated across multiple settings, as is proposed for new models of primary care, is essential for the care of older patients.

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 age75 to 84 years of age85 years of age and older65 years of age and older
Any home care services339924574
Formal home care378713365

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.

The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the AAFP.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

A collection of Graham Center Policy One-Pagers published in AFP is available at One-Pagers are also available at

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