Northwest Medical Center-Springdale earns Level I Geriatric ED Accreditation from American College of Emergency Physicians

Published Friday, October 9, 2020

Northwest Medical Center - Springdale’s Emergency Department (ED) has achieved the gold standard — Level I accreditation from the American College of Emergency Physicians’ (ACEP) Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation (GEDA) program. It is the first in Arkansas to achieve this quality milestone, as well as 12th in the nation to earn Level I gold status.

“Our team does an outstanding job every day caring for people of all ages who are experiencing medical emergencies. After listening to the community, we saw an opportunity to raise the standard of care for geriatric patients to address their specific needs,” said Hans Driessnack, chief executive officer of Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. “This unique accreditation is specifically relevant for a significant part of the population we serve. I’m so proud of our team’s work, not for just achieving this unique accreditation and being first in Arkansas to do so, but for being truly passionate about expanding the level of care available.”

The ACEP launched the GEDA program to recognize those emergency departments that provide excellent care for older adults. The program is part of an effort to improve and standardize emergency care for the nation's older patients, building on the financial support and foundational work of the Gary and Mary West Health Institute and The John A. Hartford Foundation.

“This accreditation signals to the public that Northwest Medical Center - Springdale’s Emergency Department is focused on the highest standards of care for older adults,” says William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “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," Dr. Jaquis said. "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."

The ACEP GEDA program includes three levels (similar to trauma designations with level I being the highest) with specific criteria and goals for clinicians and administrators. Requirements begin with demonstrating that the participating emergency department (1) includes both a physician and nurse with specialized geriatric training on staff, (2) meets environmental criteria such as easy patient access to water and mobility aids, and (3) has a geriatric quality improvement program.

Led by a team of inter-disciplinary leaders including Danelle Richards, M.D., Medical Director, and Tiffany Means, DNP, MHA, CENP, Department Director, the Springdale ED is a Level III Trauma Center and played a major role in the hospital earning national accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC), and The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center.

In addition to significant employee and physician training in caring for geriatric patients, the process also led the hospital to expand services in the ED, including dementia screenings for all geriatric patients as well as physical therapy consults when needed. “Our team members – including emergency physicians as well as staff members – have developed a more comprehensive approach to caring for older patients, including adding new services as well as focusing on concerns that can help reduce future hospital stays and assist with care transitions,” Driessnack said. “We’ve also expanded follow-up processes to insure that these patients are receiving proper follow-up care.”

Enhancements to the physical environment intended to better serve geriatric patients include lower access beds in treatment rooms, more handrails throughout the ED, and providing patient education in larger fonts for easier reading. 

In addition to ED staff and physicians, the geriatric service initiative included involvement from numerous other departments such as pharmacy, respiratory care, laboratory, physical therapists and case management.

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