The diverse goals of nursing home care, the heterogeneity of nursing home residents, and the varied circumstances under which physicians care for them make their evaluation and care complex and challenging.When evaluating and caring for nursing home residents, physicians must address many issues besides treatment of multiple chronic diseases (including impairments in cognitive and physical functioning, sensory deficits, depression, and behavioral disorders associated with dementia) and concerns of family members. The physician should be integrated with an interdisciplinary team composed of nurses, rehabilitation therapists, social workers, and others. Recently implemented federal rules for nursing home care, which include the Minimum Data Set and Resident Assessment Protocols, provide a useful framework for interdisciplinary assessment and care planning and should improve the care nursing home residents receive.
Better data are needed on the most cost-effective strategies for evaluating and caring for nursing home residents. Reimbursement for physician services, availability of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and overall quality of nursing home care must be improved so physicians can better achieve the recommendations outlined.