Hospitals gear more services toward growing senior population

Hospitals are rethinking how they deliver services to geriatric patients, both for financial reasons and to better serve an aging population, Hospitals & Health Networks magazine reported.

Examples of new types of care include geriatric emergency departments (EDs), hospital-at-home programs, senior surgery centers, wellness programs and adapting various lines of service for seniors, according to the article. Advocates say senior-oriented services can help hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for 30-day hospital readmissions and preventable complications.

St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, was one of the first to create a geriatric ED, H&HN reported. Nurses are trained in geriatric illnesses and comorbidities, and the care team includes a geriatric nurse navigator, a social worker, physical therapists and pharmacists.

All patients are screened for a variety of geriatric conditions including dementia and risk of falls, and medications are reviewed for possible negative interactions, according to the article. Patients taking certain drugs, including insulin and Coumadin, receive phone calls after discharge with directions on how to take their medications.

In some cases, hospitals are integrating geriatric specialists into various inpatient service lines such as oncology and psychiatry. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, for example, has a senior adult oncology service that includes an interdisciplinary team of geriatricians, oncologists, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers to conduct a full assessment to create an individualized treatment plan.

Thomas Jefferson also has a 12-bed inpatient behavioral-health unit staffed by geriatric psychiatrists, according to the article.

Hospitals also are looking at ways to look out for geriatric patients who aren't able to advocate for themselves but have no family to speak for them or make care decisions, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Because of the growing numbers of "unbefriended" elder patients, 24 states and the District of Columbia now allow close friends to give consent for medical procedures.

To learn more:
- read the H&HN article