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Academia and the Profession |

The Emergence of Geriatric Assessment Units: The "New Technology of Geriatrics"

ARNOLD M. EPSTEIN, M.D., M.A.; JUDITH A. HALL, Ph.D.; RICHARD BESDINE, M.D.; CUMELLA EDWARD Jr., B.A.; MICHAEL FELDSTEIN, Ph.D.; BARBARA J. McNEIL, M.D., Ph.D.; and JOHN W. ROWE, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant support: by the Massachusetts Fund for Cooperative Innovation and in part by the Institute for Health Research (joint program of the Harvard Community Health Plan and Harvard University). Dr. Epstein is a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Faculty Scholar in General Internal Medicine.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Arnold M. Epstein, M.D., M.A.; Institute for Health Research, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue; Boston, MA 02115.


Boston, Massachusetts


©1987 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1987;106(2):299-303. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-106-2-299
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Previous studies have suggested that geriatric assessment units may provide important benefits to the care of elderly persons. In early 1985 we surveyed personnel at 104 (91%) of the existing 114 geriatric assessment units associated with medical schools and Veterans Administration medical centers for information on the units' development and operation. Although almost 80% of the units were hospital based, most (61%) provided care for outpatients. Nearly half (47%) began operation in 1983 or later; of those in existence before 1983, two thirds have increased their capacity since then. The types of personnel and their training differed substantially among units. Fifty percent of the physicians had had no formal training in geriatrics. Of the 104 units, 99 (95%) did routine assessment. The estimated time spent per new patient in outpatient units was 2.7 ±2.1 (SD) hours. These data suggest that geriatric assessment units are proliferating rapidly, have differing structures, and consume substantial resources. Further efforts are needed to define their optimal structure, targets, and function.

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