In direct response to America's aging population and the acknowledged gaps in geriatric care, healthcare professionals recently gathered in Los Angeles to find creative approaches to address one of the nation's most pressing healthcare needs - caring for a society where in two decades one of every five American's will be 65 or older.

"Our goal is to make quality care for the elderly more efficient and less costly," said Dan Osterweil, M.D., convener of the Leadership and Management in Geriatrics (LMG) Conference. "To do that, healthcare professionals need to hone their leadership and management skills."

According to Dr. Osterweil, there currently exists "a serious gap" in the professional development of physicians, nurses and allied health professionals who work in clinical and academic settings related to geriatric care. "This conference helps bridge that gap by encouraging intense interaction between clinicians and leaders in the field of geriatric medical management," he says. "Together we embrace novel approaches to creating and managing the kind of geriatric clinics, practices and services our society desperately needs."

The two-day LMG Conference is presented by the nonprofit SCAN Health Plan in collaboration with the UCLA Academic Geriatric Resource Center and the California Geriatric Education Center. Now in its seventh year, the conference is held in a retreat-like setting with a low participant-to-faculty ratio. To date, 157 participants from 19 states have attended the program.

One of the topics covered at this year's conference was the growing demand for, and challenges associated with, providing long-term care as America ages. Attendees helped develop strategies for effective long-term care practices and identified quality indicators for institutional and community long-term care services.

Unique to LMG, conference participants are asked pre-conference to identify a worksite-specific management or leadership issue they wish to address. At the workshop, they have the opportunity to work in small collaborative groups with a faculty member to develop an action plan that directly addresses the challenge they laid out. They then work with a mentor post-conference to implement their action plan and apply lessons learned. This provides the ability to truly track the program's impact over time and makes the conference more than simply a two-day experience.

"Participants leave the conference with the ability to apply leadership and management skills to the practice of geriatric medicine," said Dr. Osterweil. "This can include how to tap into Web-based technologies for collaborative problem solving, how to interpret basic financial reports, and how to transition into a leadership role. This is real-world knowledge they need to succeed both in their practice and in better serving their patients."

As a health plan dedicated exclusively to seniors and others on Medicare, SCAN's sponsorship of the conference is part of its ongoing commitment to better understand the aging process and advocate on behalf of the needs of seniors. All of SCAN's medical directors have attended this program, and its CEO David Schmidt has participated as a faculty member.

For more than 30 years, SCAN Health Plan has been focusing on the unique needs of people with Medicare and today is the fourth-largest nonprofit Medicare Advantage Plan in the United States. The company currently serves 110,000 members in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura and Kern counties. In Arizona, SCAN offers a Medicare Advantage Plan in Maricopa County and provides long-term care services to individuals in that county who are enrolled in the state's long-term care system.

Source: SCAN Health Plan

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