The outpatient medical encounter and elderly patients

Clin Geriatr Med. 2000 Feb;16(1):95-107. doi: 10.1016/s0749-0690(05)70011-2.


There is little evidence of systematic negative bias against older patients in medical visits. The nature of the current narrative review, largely based on studies conducted after 1985, is consistent with the author's previous metaanalysis of over 40 studies published between 1965 and 1985. In that review, based on videotapes or audiotapes of medical visits, consistent relationships between patient age and physicians' interviewing skills were found. Older patients received more information, more total communication and questions concerning drugs, more courtesy, and perhaps more formality reflected in less laughter and joking than younger patients. Ultimately, the subtle ageism that may be present in medical visits with older patients is probably balanced somewhat by communication advantages afforded them challenging the negative views of older patients' care prevalent in the literature. This balance may help explain the ubiquitous finding that older patients are more satisfied with their health care, despite poorer health status, than younger patients. Nevertheless, other patients, especially those in the oldest cohorts, are at high risk for passive relationships and communication complications related to low literacy and poor health status and deserve the attention and special consideration of providers and health service researchers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care / methods*
  • Ambulatory Care / standards
  • Female
  • Health Services for the Aged / standards*
  • Health Services for the Aged / trends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prejudice
  • United States