DHMC Designated as a Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department

Ellen Flaherty, PhD, MSN, APRN, director Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging.

... we want older adults to know they don’t need to leave the area to receive care that’s not only convenient, but of outstanding quality and specialized for their unique needs.

Ellen Flaherty, PhD, MSN, APRN

The Geriatric Emergency Department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) has earned Level 1 accreditation from the American College of Emergency Physicians, making the medical center the only rural academic medical center in the United States to earn Level 1 accreditation–and one of only 14 hospitals nationwide to hold the distinction. This accreditation program was created to recognize emergency departments that uphold the highest standards of care for older adults.

The voluntary accreditation program, which includes three levels of accreditation similar to trauma center designations, provides specific criteria and goals for emergency clinicians and administrators. The accreditation process provides more than two dozen best practices for geriatric care, and the level of accreditation achieved depends on the total number of best practices that an emergency department is able to meet. As a Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department, DHMC will incorporate many of these best practices and monitor performance using quality improvement methodology, along with providing interdisciplinary geriatric education, and making available geriatric-appropriate equipment and supplies. 

“We established our Geriatric Emergency Department program out of our strong and ongoing commitment to provide the best care possible to older adults, who make up a significant portion of our patient population,” says Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH). “Earning Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department accreditation is just another important example of the ways in which we are improving patient outcomes for our older patients, standardizing approaches to care that address common geriatric issues, ensuring optimal transitions of care to other settings and supporting geriatric-focused quality improvement programs.”

The Geriatric Emergency Department started in 2019 through a three-year, $4.5 million research collaboration with the West Health Institute, an applied medical research organization dedicated to lowering the cost of health care to enable successful aging in the U.S. The Geriatric Emergency Department is designed with protocols, resources and specialized care areas to optimize the acute care of older adults. The program was developed with DHMC as the “hub” to four “spoke” sites around the region through Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s (D-H) Center for Telehealth. In January, D-HH member hospitals Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Care Center in Windsor, Vermont, were brought on as the first two spoke sites in Phase I. Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont and Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, VT, will be brought on in Phase II. Each spoke site will have 24-hour access to geriatric providers at the DHMC hub for assistance when necessary.

“At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, we are also in the process of establishing a Geriatric Center of Excellence, and this distinction for our Geriatric Emergency Department at DHMC is a great testament to our commitment to improving and expanding geriatric care,” says  Ellen Flaherty, PhD, MSN, APRN, director of the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging. “We serve a rapidly aging population in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, and we want older adults to know they don’t need to leave the area to receive care that’s not only convenient, but of outstanding quality and specialized for their unique needs.”

For more information about the Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation Program, visit https://www.acep.org/geda/.