Tuesday, October 29, 2019

N.H. hospital to open nation's first emergency department focused on rural seniors; hopes to reduce their visits to it

Google map, adapted, locates White River Junction,
Vermont, across Connecticut R. from Lebanon, N.H.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, is partnering "with a California-based nonprofit to make visits to the emergency department more helpful for people over age 65 and to reduce the need for subsequent visits," Nora Doyle-Burr reports for the Valley News in Lebanon and White River Junction, Vermont.

The hospital and West Health will also work with a group of area nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving health-care access for seniors, in a three-year collaboration to create the nation's first emergency department focused primarily on rural seniors, Matt Leighton reports for WPTZ-TV in Burlington, Vt. They've dubbed it the Geriatric Emergency Department, or GED.

"The $4.5 million research collaboration will help seniors in Northern New England by combining emergency medicine, geriatrics and telehealth resources," Leighton reports. "Medical officials said the GED will have resources, specialized care and protocols to deal with older adults. All emergency department staff will receive training."

Dartmouth-Hitchcock is well-placed to help rural seniors. It's one of only three Level 1 trauma centers in northern New England and has the state's only air ambulance service; rural areas rely disproportionately on air ambulance services. The program will be structured as a hub-and-spoke system, with Dartmouth-Hitchcock at the center and four tele-health centers in the region.

The program is needed because New England is one of the nation's most rapidly aging areas, and seniors who live in poverty are much more likely to live in rural areas. "Limited access to health services, workforce shortages, social isolation, and transportation problems are particularly severe in these remote regions," says a Dartmouth-Hitchcock press release.

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