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.

Source: Rush University

Explore further: Sustaining biomedical research: Med school deans speak out

Related Stories

Designing better medical implants

May 18, 2015

Biomedical devices that can be implanted in the body for drug delivery, tissue engineering, or sensing can help improve treatment for many diseases. However, such devices are often susceptible to attack by ...

Recommended for you

ER doctors stress need for good communications with police

May 26, 2015

A good working relationship with police is essential for the smooth operation of a busy Emergency Department. Police are in and out of EDs regularly, supporting EMS, transporting patients and helping to provide a safe environment ...

AMA: avoiding distress in medical school

May 22, 2015

(HealthDay)—Understanding the key drivers underlying medical students' distress can help address the issues and enhance student well-being, according to an article published by the American Medical Association.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.