Through a three-year partnership that seeks to enhance the healthcare journey of older adults, West Health and Sharp Memorial Hospital will work together to create a new integrated geriatric care model spanning the entire health care continuum, from the emergency department and operating room to primary care.
As a central outcome of the partnership, Sharp Memorial and West Heath will create a roadmap of how their successful, age-friendly practices can be implemented across a health system and will share their techniques, lessons learned and programmatic details in a way that can be adopted by others nationwide.
In collaboration with Sharp Memorial Hospital, we're bringing together incredible advancements in geriatric care that have, until now, been largely siloed within medical specialties such as emergency medicine or surgery. By coordinating senior-friendly care across the entire health system, we'll be amplifying those advancements and helping older patients achieve the best-possible healthcare experience."
Shelley Lyford, CEO and Chair of West Health
Diane Wintz, M.D., a Sharp-affiliated critical care specialist and medical director of the Trauma Program at Sharp Memorial Hospital, helped forge the alliance with West Health after observing throughout her career how older patients often struggle to recover from traumatic injuries or illnesses. These patients typically enter the healthcare system through the emergency department or for a planned operation, and some experience loss of function and independence after discharge.
"Injuries and illnesses in older patients can have immediate, permanent consequences on their independence and mobility," Dr. Wintz says. "We see the best results when there's an exceptional level of teamwork across departments and specialties. We want to see emergency teams, surgeons, pharmacists and primary care providers taking collaboration to a whole new level for our older patients."
Seeing the value of coordination among teams, Dr. Wintz already started an interdisciplinary "Generational Care" program at Sharp Memorial Hospital, under the John M. Sachs Family Center for Generational Health, which will serve as a foundation for the new partnership.
In addition to heightening medical coordination, the partnership will focus on ensuring older patients have access to aggressive, accelerated therapy sessions and are treated in a way to prevent delirium or other cognitive issues, Wintz says.
The program is just the latest chapter in a movement championed by West Health to improve healthcare for older adults. Maintaining dignity and independence are paramount, West Health's Lyford notes.
With support from West Health, all hospital emergency rooms in San Diego-;including Sharp's Emergency Departments-;have already achieved Geriatric Emergency Department accreditation by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and have committed to providing emergency care that takes into consideration the unique needs of older adults.
West Health is also a leader in the development of California's Master Plan for Aging. By joining with organizations such as Sharp, West Health can apply funding and expertise on projects that have meaningful and long-lasting impact on patient care.
"Our population is rapidly shifting; by 2030, the number of older adults in San Diego will be 80 percent higher than the decade earlier," says Tim Smith, senior vice president and CEO of Sharp Memorial Hospital. "These are valued members of our community who deserve the best-possible care. But, the needs of older patients are quite different than those of the average adult, and that's what's driving our commitment to create new and better standards of care."
Notably, Sharp expects to be the first health system in San Diego County to earn the Geriatric Surgery Verification from the American College of Surgeons, Smith says. This is in addition to Sharp's recent certification from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as an "Age-Friendly Health System."
"West Health and Sharp Memorial are reimagining what successful system-wide care can look like for older-adult patients, and we'll share the model with the world in the hopes others will make the same transformation," Lyford says. "Already, hospital systems are seeing the positive impact of geriatric specialty care in emergency settings and operating rooms. Just think of the impact when that level of care extends throughout the entire system in an intentional and coordinated manner."