She was 96, had heart disease and a history of falls. Now she had pneumonia and the flu. A team of Cedars specialists converged on her case to ensure that a bad situation did not turn worse and that she didn't end up with a lengthy, costly hospital stay.
Frail seniors like Gordon account for a disproportionate share of healthcare expenditures because they are frequently hospitalized and often land in intensive care units or are readmitted soon after being released. Now the federal health reform law is driving sweeping changes in how hospitals treat a rapidly growing number of elderly patients.
When Claire Gordon arrived at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, nurses knew she needed extra attention.
At Cedars-Sinai, where more than half the patients in the medical and surgical wards are 65 or older, one such effort is dubbed the "frailty project." Within 24 hours, nurses assess elderly patients for their risk of complications such as falls, bed sores and delirium. Then a nurse, social worker, pharmacist and physician assess the most vulnerable patients and make an action plan to help them.
The Cedars project stands out nationally because medical professionals are working together to identify high-risk patients at the front end of their hospitalizations to prevent problems at the back end, said Herb Schultz, regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"For seniors, it is better care, it is high-quality care and it is peace of mind," he said.
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A Delicate New Balancing Act in Senior Healthcare