Meet Dr. Erika Hutz
As told by Erika Hutz, D.O.
We sat down with Erika Hutz, D.O., a board-certified internal medicine doctor and geriatrician with Swedish Medical Group to learn more about her philosophy and practice.
What is Geriatrics?
Geriatrics is the branch of medicine that focuses on the care and treatment of older adults. It's a relatively new field. In 1950, the average lifespan for a male was 67 years. Today, that's almost 79 years. So thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer.
We also understand better now that an 80-year-old is very different than an 18-year-old. We cannot treat all adults the same.
A geriatrician is a doctor who has completed a three year residency in either internal medicine or family medicine, followed by a geriatrics fellowship, which is one to two years of additional training focusing on the care and treatment of older adults.
Who Should See a Geriatrician?
If you are over the age of 65, it would be appropriate for you to see a geriatrician.
Sometimes a geriatrician does see patients under the age of 65 if they have one or more of what we call geriatric syndromes: memory loss, dementia, delirium, confusion, mobility disorders, falls, frailty, incontinence, inappropriate weight loss and poly-pharmacy--which is defined as taking five or more medications.
Those would be reasons to see a geriatrician even if you're under the age of 65.
A big part of geriatrics is preventive medicine. Something I do with all of my patients is comprehensive physical and cognitive testing. This way I'm able to pick up if a patient is starting to develop some memory issues or if a patient is at risk for falls, etc.
I sit down with all of my patients and go through every single medication that they're taking. Sometimes patients are taking 20 different medications. They don't know what they're taking and they don't know why they're taking them.
I work very closely with physical therapy for mobility issues and also for incontinence.
It's about being proactive. I don't want to wait for a bad fall or a broken bone.
Is a Geriatrician a Primary Care Provider?
A geriatrician is a primary care doctor and also a consultant.
So if you have a primary care doctor whom you love, but you have a concern about one of the geriatric syndromes, you can ask your primary care doctor for referral to come and see me. I will complete my comprehensive geriatric assessment, including cognitive and physical testing, and I will send my report with my recommendations back to your doctor.
Today we have a lot of surgeries and procedures that prolong life, but what is appropriate? If a patient is an older adult and has some memory issues and doesn't want to go through a big surgery or a big procedure, then that's a conversation to have with your geriatrician and your primary care doctor to discuss the goals of care to determine what is the best for each individual patient.
By David Modica | Published February 14, 2020
Erika Hutz, D.O., is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and geriatrician with Swedish Medical Group. Her clinical interests include dementia, geriatrics, incontinence, memory loss, delirium, falls, mobility disorders, polypharmacy, unexplained weight loss and frailty. She speaks English and German.