Serving An Aging Population in a Changing Health Care Landscape

Serving An Aging Population in a Changing Health Care Landscape

How Texas Hospitals are Innovating to Address the Baby Boomer Generation

By Sondra Williamson

Roughly 75 million Americans were born during the post-World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964. This year, they will range in age from 53 to 71. About 3 million baby boomers will reach retirement age every year for the next 20. This exponential growth in the elderly patient population presents both challenges and opportunities for the health care system.

Boomers are living longer than their parents, but they are sicker, with higher rates of chronic illnesses and often multiple conditions. A larger health care workforce is needed to meet their needs, and the health care system must adapt to encourage coordination and collaboration among providers. Importantly, geriatric care will need to expand its focus on preventative care and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Across Texas, hospitals in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state are developing innovative care models to meet the physical and behavioral health needs of this diverse and growing population.

A Trailblazing, Holistic Approach to Boomer Care

With five hospitals, two long-term care facilities and 30 clinics in the Brazos Valley, CHI St. Joseph Health is well-positioned to serve the baby boom population. The 65 and older segment of its market will grow about 35 percent over the next 10 years – more than five times that of any other demographic.

“We’re taking a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to how we care for seniors, merging health and wellness into primary care,” said Donovan French, MBA, MPH, vice president of strategy for CHI St. Joseph Health. “A lot of great services are offered elsewhere, but they’re fragmented. Our concept is an all-inclusive health and wellness destination for seniors.”

About four years ago, CHI St. Joseph Health’s leadership began in-depth discussions on how to provide highly coordinated care for seniors with several chronic diseases. At the same time, the Texas A&M Health Science Center envisioned an opportunity to enhance its curriculum by adding rotations in a geriatric provider community. Together, they held focus groups and enlisted the help of an advisory council of local seniors to understand their needs, barriers to obtaining medical care, and customer service expectations.

The result of this collaboration is the MatureWell Lifestyle Center, a 23,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art health and wellness complex providing adults age 55-plus a single location for everything they need to achieve their health and wellness goals, manage chronic disease, and access social and educational opportunities.

Two board-certified geriatricians are on the center’s staff – medical doctors trained to meet older adults’ unique health care needs. The MatureWell complex includes a gym, indoor pool and more than 200 fitness classes; medication management with onsite experts; a range of rehabilitation services; and classes on nutrition, disease and lifestyle management. The MatureWell advocate, an RN with case management experience, works with patients to help them navigate the astounding array of available services, set their appointments and provide other assistance.

The first of its kind nationwide, the MatureWell Lifestyle Center takes a holistic approach – focusing on mind, body and spirit – to help seniors improve and prolong their quality of life.

One-Stop Senior Care with Convenience and Bling!

A similar approach is being taken at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, part of Texas Health Resources, one of the largest faith-based nonprofit health care delivery systems in the country. In March 2014, Texas Health Fort Worth opened its 8,000 square-foot Senior Health and Wellness Center, the brainchild of its dynamic president, Lillie Biggins, RN, FACHE.

“When we send a patient home from the emergency department, we tell them to see their primary care doctor within five days,” said Biggins. “However, many can’t get into a doctor’s office because they’re Medicare patients, so they end up back in the ED.”

The ED can now send those patients upstairs to the Senior Health and Wellness Center, a single venue providing coordinated care, with specific attention to problems common to seniors. Treatments are provided by a dedicated staff led by a board-certified geriatrician.

Biggins said most doctors’ offices are not designed to meet seniors’ needs. The chairs are too low, without armrests; the exam tables too narrow; and the rooms cold and boring. She envisioned a welcoming place of pampering and convenience, including valet parking – “a showplace with so much bling, you’d never doubt it was for seniors!”

The Senior Health and Wellness Center’s ambiance begins with a beautiful stained glass entrance featuring a “love never fails” theme telling the story of life, from birth to old age. Inside, every aspect of the furnishings, layout and artwork is designed for a comfortable, anxiety-free visit. It is a one-stop shop that provides blood draws, x-rays, hearing and visual testing, and other primary care services in a positive, life-affirming setting.