More hospitals customize ERs for older patients

With an aging U.S. population, hospitals are building emergency rooms designed exclusively for patients 65 and older, reported The New York Times. Joining that trend, Mount Sinai Hospital recently opened New York City's first geriatric ER, the hospital announced Friday.

So far, Mount Sinai has seen unscheduled return visits to the emergency room drop from 20 percent of cases to 1 percent. And while eight elderly patients a month fell in the regular ER, none have fallen in the geriatric ER, noted the article.

To cater to baby boomers and their parents, Mount Sinai's geriatric ER features skid-proof floors, extra handrails, special mattresses to reduce bedsores and curtains designed to keep out noise, according to the announcement.

People over 65 make up 15 percent to 20 percent of ER visits, noted the NYT, prompting more hospitals to tailor their emergency care to older patients. In fact, Michigan-based Trinity Health System already runs 12 geriatric ERs nationwide and plans to open six or seven more by June.

Such a trend could eliminate quality care gaps between older and younger patients, as a March Annals of Emergency Medicine study found that about a quarter of elderly patients that come through the ER are assessed as less sick than they actually are. Moreover, patients age 65 and older who underwent emergency general surgery had substantially greater risk for adverse events and modestly higher mortality rates compared to younger patients, according to a study published last June in the Journal of the American Colleges of Surgeons.

But not all providers are convinced geriatric-specific ERs will improve outcomes, but factors that boost quality for elderly patients, like thicker mattresses actually reducing bedsores, should be provided to all emergency patients, Alfred Sacchetti, chief of emergency services at New Jersey's Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, told the NYT.

To learn more:
- read the NYT article
- read the Mount Sinai press release