JHF Shares Geriatric-Friendly Health Practice Guidance to NRHI

The U.S. healthcare system is not ready for the "silver tsunami" — the coming tide of elderly patients. JHF Chief Program Officer and COO Nancy Zionts addressed this issue during a national webinar presented to members of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) on June 20. 

"An influx of aging baby boomers will drastically shift the healthcare landscape," Zionts said. "Just as the way we work, the way we experience music, TV and travel has changed over the years, so too is what we will want and need from health care."
Webinar attendees acknowledged that while most of their primary care practices have seen a surge in senior patients, few have specialized staff or training in place to serve them. Zionts challenged the audience to rethink how to deliver skilled care. Solely training more geriatricians will not keep pace with demand. (Despite the high job satisfaction geriatricians report, few medical students are choosing the specialty.) Instead, Zionts emphasized the importance of forming multi-disciplinary teams at the primary care level. These should include social workers, pharmacists, and behavioral health and dementia specialists to assist the doctors and nurses in meeting the aging patient's complex needs, as well as community partners.

Key domains of geriatric-friendly primary care include communication, an environment of care, assessments and screening, medication and pharmacy, care coordination, goals of care, advance care planning, and family and caregiver involvement. A healthcare team that establishes relationships with patients and family caregivers will be better able to understand and meet their changing needs. Zionts also referred participants to the John A. Hartford Foundation, which offers toolkits and other resources specifically around the needs of older adults. 

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