Urging Senate to Increase Support for Geriatrics Training, GSA Member Shares Innovative Care Model

For Immediate Release
February 6, 2019

Contact: Todd Kluss
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Speaking today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, University of Washington professor Katherine Bennett, MD, asked lawmakers to reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and reinstate the Geriatrics Academic Career Award Program. She additionally demonstrated the value of supporting the Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) model to improve the care of older adults.

Bennett is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington and a member of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA). She serves as the education lead for the Northwest Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Center, which is the University of Washington’s federally-funded GWEP. In that role, she is the founding medical director of Project ECHO–Geriatrics.

ECHO uses a telehealth model to bridge the gap in health care for rural and underserved communities. It links primary care clinicians with specialists through real-time learning made possible by inexpensive videoconferencing technology. Bennett’s program specifically connects physicians in training with a specialist panel that includes a geriatrician, social worker, psychiatrist, pharmacist, nurse, and Area Agency on Aging staff.

“Project ECHO programs need sustained funding to do their work well, and to reach more underserved patients. ECHOs are supported through a patchwork of funding mechanisms that are often short-term and unpredictable,” Bennett said in her testimony. “I am very hopeful that through this committee, you will enact a strategy to sustain and grow ECHO to allow all patients, regardless of where they live, to receive the highest quality health care.”

At the hearing, which was titled “How Primary Care Affects Health Care Costs and Outcomes,” she shared that there are currently 10 geriatrics-focused ECHOs throughout the country. She said this type of care can improve quality of life for older adults and reduce costs from preventable hospital readmissions and nursing home placement.

“Many geriatrics ECHOs do not have patient outcomes data quite yet, and we need continued funding to obtain this critical information,” Bennett told the committee. “Knowing that we are moving best practices to the front-line of primary care, and based on what I have seen, I am confident the positive outcomes are there.”


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

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