A small but growing number of hospitals are building emergency departments specifically for elderly patients at a time when the senior population is growing and hospitals are incentivized to develop new ways to prevent readmissions and improve patient satisfaction.
That trend made the ECRI Institute's annual C-Suite Watch List of 10 clinical developments, tools and technologies that raise questions about whether they improve outcomes and are cost-effective. The list also includes catheter-based renal denervation for treatment-resistance hypertension, real-time MRI adaptive radiation therapy, and broader categories such as “big data” and “intelligent” pills, which are designed to improve medication adherence and help prevent readmissions.
On geriatric EDs, Robert Maliff, director of ECRI's applied solutions group at ECRI, a Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based not-for-profit research organization, asked, “Is this money being well spent? There are some instances where this might improve readmission rates. (But) true robust data is not yet available for outcomes for senior-specific EDs.”
More than 50 U.S. hospitals have opened EDs for elderly patients since 2011 and at least 150 more have senior-specific EDs in development, according to ECRI. But that doesn't mean that senior-specific emergency departments are right for every hospital. Limited data exist so far that show geriatric EDs save money for hospitals or patients.
St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., in 2009 was one of the first U.S. hospitals to open a geriatric emergency room. When the hospital built a new emergency department in 2012, it allocated 24 of the 88 beds for elderly patients. About 12% of the hospital's emergency department visits each year involve elderly patients.