Ageism in healthcare: 5 takeaways for hospital leaders

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Age bias is not new in healthcare, but the problem is being exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kaiser Health News.

Five things to know about ageism in healthcare:

1. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines age discrimination as "treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age." Discrimination, which includes demotions, job loss or nonconsideration for positions, can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are both older than 40.

2. An example of explicit ageism in healthcare cited by Kaiser Health News was crisis standards of care that specify treating younger patients before older ones.

3. An example of implicit ageism in healthcare from Julie Silverstein, MD, divisional president at Chicago-based Oak Street Health, is physicians assuming older patients who speak slowly are cognitively compromised and can't relate their medical concerns, which she told Kaiser Health News could lead to compromised care.

4. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that one out of five adults older than 50 experienced discrimination in healthcare settings. A Yale School of Public Health study from 2018 estimated that ageism caused excess costs of $63 billion for a range of health conditions during one year in the U.S.

5. Older Americans who shared their experiences with Kaiser Health News decried age bias. One individual, referencing her visit to an emergency room earlier this year, said, "I think the fact I was a woman of 84, alone, was important. When older people come in like that, they don't get the same level of commitment to do something to rectify the situation. It's like, 'Oh, here's an old person with pain. Well, that happens a lot to older people.' "

Read the full Kaiser Health News report here

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