LEBANON — Getting specialized emergency care to older patients in rural areas is the focus of a new $4.5 million partnership between Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and West Health.
“Improving the delivery of care in rural areas is one of the strategic imperatives for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health as we grow to meet the needs of patients around the region,” said Joanne Conroy, president and CEO at DHMC, as part of last week's announcement.
The $4.5 million research collaboration project looks to create a “Geriatric Emergency Department, (GED)” according to a DHMC statement.
The GED is designed with protocols, resources, and specialized care areas to optimize the acute care of older adults.
While most hospitals with GEDs have been located in urban or larger academic medical centers, the DHMC and West Health collaboration will be the first in the nation to focus on a largely rural population, according to the hospital.
“With our strong programs and passionate providers in emergency medicine and geriatrics, along with our dynamic Connected Care Center, we are uniquely qualified for the development of a rural telehealth model of geriatric emergency care that this collaboration will enable,” Conroy said.
West Health is contributing $3 million to establish the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon (DHMC) as a center for geriatric emergency care over the course of a three-year research collaboration. The remaining $1.5 million will come from DHMC. The partnership will develop and implement protocols, resources, and specialized care areas within the Emergency Department at DHMC, all to optimize the acute care of older adults.
“This is the perfect union,” says Shelly Lyford, president and chief executive officer of West Health. “Combining West Health’s experience in geriatric care with Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s pioneering work in telehealth and geriatrics will enable Dartmouth-Hitchcock to add geriatric emergency telecare to its already world-class telehealth portfolio. And seniors will be the beneficiaries of this important work.”
Caring for older adults in rural areas presents challenges to health care providers, according to DHMC.
Northern New England is one of the United States’ most rapidly aging regions, with Vermont and New Hampshire being the second- and third-oldest states, respectively, by median age, according to the hospital. In 2017, the Lebanon hospital saw about 8,000 geriatric patients in its emergency departments.
The plan will see the Lebanon hospital become a hub, operating four satellite sites at different locations in Northern New England, making use of DHMC’s telemedicine program.
Older adults who live in poverty are significantly more likely to live in rural areas, according to DHMC. Limited access to health services, workforce shortages, social isolation, and transportation problems are particularly severe in these remote regions.