Listening to Older Adults: Elderly Patients' Experience of Care in Residency and Practicing Physician Outpatient Clinics


  • An abstract summarizing this study was presented at the Association of Medical Education of Europe annual conference, September 2009, Málaga, Spain.

Address correspondence to Brian J. Hess, American Board of Internal Medicine, 510 Walnut Street, Suite 1700, Philadelphia, PA 19106. E-mail:


The population of people aged 65 and older is rapidly growing. Research has demonstrated significant quality gaps in the clinical care of older patients in the United States, especially in training programs. Little is known about how older patients' experience with care delivered in residency clinics compares with that delivered by practicing physicians. Using patient surveys from the American Board of Internal Medicine Care of the Vulnerable Elderly Practice Improvement Module, the quality of care provided to adults aged 65 and older by 52 internal medicine and family medicine residency clinics and by a group of 144 practicing physicians was studied. The residency clinics received 2,213 patient surveys, and the practicing physicians received 4,204. Controlling for age and overall health status, patients from the residency clinic sample were less likely to report receiving guidance and interventions for important aspects of care for older adults than patients from the practicing physician sample. The largest difference was observed in providing ways to help patients prevent falls or treat problems with balance or walking (42.1% vs 61.8%, P<.001). Patients from the residency clinic sample were less likely to rate their overall care as high (77.5% vs 88.8%, P<.001). Patient surveys reveal important deficiencies in processes of care that are more pronounced for patients cared for in residency clinics. Quality of patient experience and communication are vital aspects of overall quality of care, especially for older adults. Physician education at all levels, faculty development, and practice system redesign are needed to ensure that the care needs of older adults are met.