Older adults in Northern New England are a vulnerable and underserved population and a large and growing demographic characterized by multiple chronic illnesses, poor care coordination, rural isolation and poverty, and a lack of providers that have a full understanding of the constraints and issues of growing old (i.e. geriatric medicine). Adding to these challenges is a shortage of primary care physicians and healthcare workers, including those who have been trained in strategies that meet the specific healthcare issues and concerns of older adults.
The purpose of this ECHO program is to enhance the capacity of primary care providers, and care coordinators to treat and manage the care of older adults. The curriculum focuses on common and complex issues in the geriatric patient population, including the diagnosis and management of cognitive impairment, agitated and psychotic behaviors, depression, sleep disorders, frailty, functional decline, falls, and polypharmacy. The importance of working with and supporting caregivers is also addressed, as is complex care issues involving multiple disorders and social factors affecting wellbeing and function. During the ECHO sessions, the program participants present challenging patient cases for discussion with a multidisciplinary panel of geriatric-focused faculty from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The panel consists of a geriatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist, pharmacist, geriatric occupational therapist, family nurse practitioner, and a social worker who is also a representative from an Area Agencies on Aging.
Qualidigm has run 7 sessions (including orientations and Mock ECHOs) for this in-progress ECHO program since October 2018 and has reached 54 healthcare providers in 3 states. The benefits to the program participants include gaining assessment skills to more accurately diagnose and treat geriatric patients living with complex conditions specific to older adult populations, learning new techniques for managing conditions that are commonly associated with dementia, increasing familiarity with methods of managing behavioral issues in patients with dementia and late-life mood disorders, learning both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, identifying high risk medications and learning skills for “de-prescribing”, increasing skills in engaging caregivers and reducing risk of caregiver burnout, and improving skills to help patients and families navigate difficult palliative and end of life decisions.
This project is an example of some of our ECHO sessions. For more information on our ECHO projects and how you can get involved please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.