Geriatric ERs: A growing trend sparks interest, debate

At New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital, elderly patients arriving at the emergency room now have the option for a healthcare experience tailored to their special needs.

An article in today’s New York Times reports that if seniors meet certain criteria with regards to age and condition, they are directed to Mount Sinai's geriatric emergency department, or geri-ed, where they’ll experience: an artificial skylight with bucolic images of clouds and flowering trees to reduce agitation and confusion associated with sundowning; an absence of beeping machines, harsh lights and racing medical residents; nonskid floors; thicker mattresses to prevent pressure ulcers; and a bedside iPad that allows them to converse with a nurse or touch the screen to request meals and pain meds.

The new facility has received rave reviews from patients, according to the article, and reflects a growing trend of healthcare providers’ efforts to cater to the medical needs and desires of an aging population. And while the trend has its detractors, there’s no denying one big positive outcome—lower return rates—the holy grail of performance measurement as decreed by healthcare reform. At St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Patterson, N.J., whose geriatric ER was modeled in part by Mount Sinai, unscheduled return visits to the ER were reduced from 20 percent to one percent, reports the newspaper.

This performance also reflects the specialized mission of the geriatric ER, which is to focus on the context of the emergency. A pharmacist may look at drug interactions and a visiting nurse may visit the patient’s home to investigate trip hazards, according to the article.

Naysayers to the trend say it’s all about marketing and distracts from the goal of providing optimal care to all patients. And those are valid points. But both the anecdotal and analytical reports make a strong case for this targeted treatment and are a positive option for LTC residents requiring emergency room service.  

Topics: Clinical