OBJECTIVE To assess the most appropriate criteria considered by geriatricians to select patients who might benefit the most from geriatric hospital care. MATERIAL AND METHODS We carried out a survey that consisted of various socio-demographic, clinical, functional and mental criteria included in the definition of the geriatric and frail elderly patient. The survey was sent to all specialists in geriatrics in the different hospitals of the Madrid Health Service. They were asked to answer to each criterion indicating whether they considered it as high priority, priority, low priority or no priority. The responses were clustered by type of hospital: acute hospitals with or without a post-graduate geriatric program for medical residents, and medium and long stay hospitals. RESULTS A total of 83 questionnaires were completed (70% of the study population): 42 teaching hospitals a post-graduate geriatric program (74% of possible), 20 of those with an emergency department but without a post-graduate geriatric program (56% of possible), and 21 medium and long stay hospitals (84% of potential). All proposed criteria were considered individually as priority or high-priority by more than 50% of respondents. An age 85 years and over, admission for hip fracture, the presence of severe cognitive or functional impairment, frailty, and unexplained deterioration of health status, were considered individually as criteria for selecting high-priority target population by more than 85% of respondents. CONCLUSIONS Certain criteria, such as advanced age, or the presence of geriatrics-specific conditions, such as hip fracture or severe functional or cognitive impairment, are identified by geriatricians as useful to select patients to receive geriatric specialist hospital care.