Purpose: Family physicians provide the majority of elderly patient care in Canada. Many experience significant challenges in serving this cohort. This study aimed to examine the medical problems of patients referred to a care of the elderly physician, to better understand the geriatric continuing medical education (CME) needs of family doctors.
Methods: A retrospective chart review of patients assessed at an urban outpatient seniors' clinic between 2003 and 2008 was conducted. Data from 104 charts were analyzed and survey follow-up with 28 of the referring family physicians was undertaken. Main outcomes include the type and frequency of medical problems actually referred to a care of the elderly physician. Clarification of future geriatric CME topics of need was also assessed.
Results: Preventive care issues were addressed with 67 patients. Twenty-four required discussion of advance directives. The most common medical problems encountered were osteoarthritis (42), hypertension (34), osteoporosis (32), and depression or anxiety (23). Other common problems encountered that have not been highly cited as being a target of CME included musculoskeletal and joint pain (41), diabetes (23), neck and back pain (20), obesity (11), insomnia (11), and neuropathic, fibromyalgia and "leg cramps" pain (10). The referring family physicians surveyed agreed that these were topics of need for future CME.
Conclusions: The findings support geriatric CME for the common medical problems encountered. Chronic pain, diabetes, obesity and insomnia continue to be important unresolved issues previously unacknowledged by physicians as CME topics of need. Future CME focusing more on process of geriatric care may also be relevant.
Keywords: CME; aging; elderly; family physicians; geriatrics; needs assessment.