At our board meeting earlier this month, we heard about the statewide health equity focus that will involve not just HASD&IC but also CHA, the Hospital Association of Southern California, and Hospital Council – Northern & Central California. This important work entails collaboration among the four associations and their member hospitals to ensure care is inclusive and equitable for all. It includes:
- Correcting the structural imbalance created by Medi-Cal underfunding
- Action derived from partnerships among health care providers and lawmakers, civic leaders, insurance companies, and others
- Meaningful measurement of the problems, starting with data that are collected and analyzed at the community level
- Expanding innovative modes of care delivery — such as telehealth and hospital-at-home programs — to increase access to care
As part of this focus on health equity, we cannot ignore our aging population. As the population continues to get older — by 2025, more than 1 million San Diegans will be over the age of 55 — hospitals are seeing more elderly patients and must look at new ways to approach emergency care that is more equitable and suits the greater numbers of seniors.
Efforts to address care for the aging population in San Diego County have been years in the making.
Back in 2019, hospitals across the region pledged to make significant improvements in the care of senior citizens by participating in a new Senior Emergency Care Initiative. This initiative is a one-of-a-kind public-private partnership between the county, the West Health Institute, and San Diego hospitals and health systems.
Three years later, this collaboration to improve health equity for older adults has resulted in something that all San Diego County hospitals have achieved — Geriatric Emergency Department (GED) Accreditation, a designation that establishes guidelines for the care of elderly patients.
In order to meet these accreditation standards, hospitals had to fulfill a wide spectrum of best practices, including enhanced staffing and education, policies and protocols that focus on the needs of seniors, as well as senior-friendly physical enhancements. Enhanced architectural elements include sound-absorbing walls and ceilings to reduce ambient noise, contrasting colors between walls and floors to reduce fall risk, as well as mobility aids and improved lighting.
This achievement makes San Diego County the first and only county in the nation to have all general acute care hospitals accredited as a GED, and to celebrate this milestone, a press briefing is scheduled for Aug. 11. Stay tuned for more details on this special occasion and this important precedent that San Diego County has set in the care of older adults.