Home health care has been proven to play a key role in lowering hospital readmission rates and preventing costly emergency room visits. Major hospitals are now designing ERs specifically for older adults, keeping the goal of re-hospitalization prevention top of mind.
And that may mean more business for home health providers moving forward.
“There’s a growing awareness that the traditional design of emergency-department care isn’t well suited to frail, older adults,” Kevin J. Biese, an emergency medicine physician who heads the new Geriatric ED Accreditation Board of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the ER design trend Sunday.
ERs designed for older adult patients and their families — or “geriatric emergency departments” — are popping up in hospitals across the country, including at La Jolla, California-based UC San Diego Health, according to WSJ.
ERs for older adults have similarly launched at New York-based Mount Sinai Health System and Paterson, New Jersey-based St. Joseph’s University Medical Center. Silver Spring, Maryland-based Holy Cross Hospital and up to five Aurora Health Care hospitals in eastern Wisconsin are also among the group.
Traditionally, ERs have been designed to provide care for patients suffering from ailments ranging from head trauma to severe bleeding — but not necessarily older adults with complex medical conditions
Geriatric emergency departments address the specific needs that elderly patients have when it comes to hospital care, such as special attention paid to injuries from falls, and complications that arise from conditions like diabetes and heart failure.
These departments also serve as a response to the rise in the percentage of ER visits for patients over the age of 65, which saw an increase of more than 27% from 2005 to 2015 despite an uptick in home health care services.
As part of their efforts to cater to older adults and prevent subsequent ER trips, the staff at geriatric emergency departments regularly recommend home health care services, according to WSJ.
About 23.7% of patients discharged to home health services following an ER stay make their way back to the hospital, previous research suggests. About 33% of patients who experience an in-patient hospital stay after an ER visit, in contrast, end up back in the hospital.
Additionally, patients who receive home health care in-home immediately after going to the ER see total 90-day health care costs of $13,012, compared to $20,325 for patients who were treated in the hospital, according to the research.
Currently, geriatric emergency departments can earn Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation (GEDA) based on their policies, practices and features.
So far, more than 50 departments are GEDA accredited and over 100 across the nation are in the process of getting accredited.
This growing number of hospitals seeking accreditation suggests positive implications for home health care providers who could see a boom in business as ER patients are being sent home sooner — and as geriatric emergency department staff prescribe home health care services.