Reduced emergency room visits for elderly patients attributed to 'virtual' health care team approach

May 01, 2008

Elderly patients suffering from chronic illnesses who receive 'virtual' care from a team of medical experts linked together via phone, fax and e-mail, make fewer emergency visits than patients who do not receive this kind of coordinated team care approach according to a new study by Rush University Medical Center. The study will be presented at the American Geriatrics Society's Annual Scientific Meeting on Friday, May 2.

Researchers studied a pilot project designed at Rush called, "Virtual Integrated Practice (VIP)," that links physician practices to teams of pharmacists, social workers and dieticians via phone, fax and e-mail so they could coordinate care for patients. This new approach is designed to develop effective team building and ongoing collaboration among health care provides who do not work together in practice in the same locations or even the same organizations.

Researchers followed higher risk diabetic patients over the course of two years and found that patients in the VIP program made fewer trips to the ER than those not in the program. Patients getting VIP care also reported better understanding of how to use their medications than those getting standard care. In addition, physicians who were part of virtual teams reported that they were better informed of how their patients were doing between visits than those that were not part of virtual teams.

"Doctors usually communicate through inefficient systems that haven't changed much in the past three decades. They still pass notes back and forth in the form of prescriptions, signed orders, and mailed progress reports," said principal investigator Dr. Steven K. Rothschild, co-director of the section of community and social medicine in the department of preventative medicine at Rush. "The VIP study shows the feasibility of interdisciplinary virtual teams as a practical solution to many challenges seen in primary care geriatric care practices," said Rothschild.

Experts in treating the elderly consider coordinated, interdisciplinary team health care optimal for older adults, who tend to have multiple chronic health problems. Coordinated team care is a key element for the "Medical Home" patient-centered care approach to care. While older adults with multiple chronic illnesses can benefit from coordinated care provided by physicians as well as nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers, 60 percent of primary care physician practices in the U.S. are small and unlikely to have the resources to create and maintain interdisciplinary care teams.

"We have proven results that indicate that the VIP model is a replicable roadmap and can easily be adopted by solo and small group practices that care for frail elders," said Rothschild.
-end-
For more information about the Virtual Integrated Practice project at Rush, visit: http://www.rush.edu/professionals/vip/.

VIP is a four-year project supported through a grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation's "Geriatric Interdisciplinary Teams in Practice" initiative. The project is administered through the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush. The Principal Investigator for the VIP project is Dr. Steven K. Rothschild, Associate Professor of Medicine and Co-director of the Section of Community and Social Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine. The Co-principal Investigator is Dr. David Lindeman, Director of the Mather Institute on Aging in Evanston, Ill.

Rush University Medical Center is an academic medical center that encompasses the more than 600 staffed-bed hospital (including Rush Children's Hospital), the Johnston R. Bowman Health Center and Rush University. Rush University, with more than 1,270 students, is home to one of the first medical schools in the Midwest, and one of the nation's top-ranked nursing colleges. Rush University also offers graduate programs in allied health and the basic sciences. Rush is noted for bringing together clinical care and research to address major health problems, including arthritis and orthopedic disorders, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, neurological disorders and diseases associated with aging.

Rush University Medical Center

Related Health Care Articles from Brightsurf:

Study evaluates new World Health Organization Labor Care Guide for maternity care providers
The World Health Organization developed the new Labor Care Guide to support clinicians in providing good quality, women-centered care during labor and childbirth.

Six ways primary care "medical homes" are lowering health care spending
New analysis of 394 U.S. primary care practices identifies the aspects of care delivery that are associated with lower health care spending and lower utilization of emergency care and hospital admissions.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

Spending on primary care vs. other US health care expenditures
National health care survey data were used to assess the amount of money spent on primary care relative to other areas of health care spending in the US from 2002 to 2016.

MU Health Care neurologist publishes guidance related to COVID-19 and stroke care
A University of Missouri Health Care neurologist has published more than 40 new recommendations for evaluating and treating stroke patients based on international research examining the link between stroke and novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Large federal program aimed at providing better health care underfunds primary care
Despite a mandate to help patients make better-informed health care decisions, a ten-year research program established under the Affordable Care Act has funded a relatively small number of studies that examine primary care, the setting where the majority of patients in the US receive treatment.

International medical graduates care for Medicare patients with greater health care needs
A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital research team indicates that internal medicine physicians who are graduates of medical schools outside the US care for Medicare patients with more complex medical needs than those cared for by graduates of American medical schools.

The Lancet Global Health: Improved access to care not sufficient to improve health, as epidemic of poor quality care revealed
Of the 8.6 million deaths from conditions treatable by health care, poor-quality care is responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths per year -- more than deaths due to insufficient access to care (3.6 million) .

Under Affordable Care Act, Americans have had more preventive care for heart health
By reducing out-of-pocket costs for preventive treatment, the Affordable Care Act appears to have encouraged more people to have health screenings related to their cardiovascular health.

High-deductible health care plans curb both cost and usage, including preventive care
A team of researchers based at IUPUI has conducted the first systematic review of studies examining the relationship between high-deductible health care plans and the use of health care services.

Read More: Health Care News and Health Care Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.