By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias-AHC Media

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recently unveiled its Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation (GEDA) program, which is an ongoing effort to standardize care for elderly patients.

"Older adults visit emergency departments at a high rate, they often present with multiple chronic conditions, and face more social and physical challenges than the general population," ACEP President Paul Kivela, MD, MBA, FACEP, said in a statement. "Seniors who visit ACEP accredited emergency departments can be assured that the facilities have the necessary expertise, equipment, and personnel in place to provide optimal care. This initiative will greatly enhance geriatric emergency care, especially in rural areas, and help ease older patients back into their daily lives after an emergency occurs."

ACEP launched a pilot version of the program in eight hospitals on Jan. 1. By the end of 2018, ACEP expects 50 EDs to complete the accreditation, Kevin Biese, MD, MAT, FACEP, the vice chair of academic affairs and the codirector of the division of geriatric medicine at the school of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and leader of this accreditation effort, told ED Management in April.

Noting that hospitals have differing levels of resources at their disposal based on many factors such as trauma level, size, demographics, and community needs, Biese explained that the accreditation program includes three tiers, with tier one representing the most comprehensive accreditation level.

“As emergency medicine’s role in overall health system resource utilization evolves, ACEP sees setting standards for how older adults are treated in the ED as part of the evolution,” Biese said, noting that while EDs will not face any penalties if they decline to pursue GEDA, there is potential upside for those that do. “We know there is interest in the country for geriatric EDs because hospitals are proclaiming that they have geriatric EDs, so this speaks to the recognition of a need and an attempt to address that need. We also feel there is a need for clarifying what that means for the public. If [a hospital] says it has a geriatric ED, what should that mean regarding how older Americans are cared for in that ED? That is what we are trying to build.”

In a related article that also appeared in the April issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks explored new research that suggests transitional care nurses with geriatrics training can help facilitate the discharge of older patients who present to the ED for care. Investigators found that such interventions can reduce hospitalization in this patient group, enabling patients to avoid hospital-associated risks such as functional and cognitive declines and healthcare-associated infections.

For much more on caring for elderly patients in the emergency environment, be sure to read this and other issues of ED Management.