Efforts on Improving Senior Care

Larger mattresses are a big deal in Valley Hospital’s emergency department, as part of its attempt to make a “senior-friendly” ER. At 5 inches thick, the mattresses (changing from the conventional 3-inch-thick ones on the department’s 21 beds) are more comfortable, according to ER employees and help protect patients’ delicate skin. Other new features at Valley and Deaconess emergency departments recognized open houses include easier-to-use call control buttons, floor-gripping footwear and yellow-colored dresses that alert employees to seniors’ greater risk of falling and seniors-only vehicle parking areas or valet service.

senior_careAlong with making clients happier, the changes at both medical centers are developed to cut the number of seniors’ return trips and the duration of their medical center stay, Valley CEO Tim Moran informed a group gathered at the medical center to see the developments. The medical centers, part of the region’s Rockwood Health System and owned by Community Health Systems Inc., have been making the changes as more sufferers age and as the Affordable Care Act places a new focus on enhanced ER care and senior care. Under the new health care law, emergency departments have some new reasons, financial rewards and disincentives to enhance care, said Dr. John Tilson, medical directors of Valley Hospital’s emergency department.

Among disincentives, Dr. Tilson said the center is compensated less to cure sufferers who continue to come back to the ER, especially in the first 30 days after their first visit. The idea is that if emergency departments better deal with patients’ health-related problems, assisting them set up better support at home, for example, they can avoid upcoming conditions and accidents. How much an ER gets refunded by medical health insurance also will rely partially on how quickly sufferers get services and their fulfillment with their care, Tilson said. In 2012, people 65 and older showed nearly 17% of Valley’s emergency department trips and nearly 20% at Deaconess. More senior sufferers are required as middle-agers age. While the first trend of senior care emergency departments or specific senior departments within ERs in the U.S. started out just a few years ago, senior care is getting more attention among emergency doctors in the U.S., Tilson said. Some ERs in areas with large senior communities are building entire departments in their emergency departments for older people, he said: “It’s just taken off.”