Nation’s Only Rural Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department Designated at DHMC

Group Photo
From left to right – Susan B. Varga, MD, Geriatric Emergency Department Medical Director; Scott W. Rodi, MD, Inaugural Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine; Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and President Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health.

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.

Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and President of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

The Geriatric Emergency Department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon 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 Geriatric Emergency Department (GED) 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; the level of GED accreditation achieved depends on the total number of best practices that an emergency department is able to meet. As a Level 1 GED, 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,” said Joanne M. Conroy, MD, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH). “Earning Level 1 GED 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.”

D-HH established its GED program 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 GED is designed with protocols, resources and specialized care areas to optimize the acute care of older adults. The GED program was developed with DHMC as the “hub” to four “spoke” sites around the region through Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s 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, VT, were brought on as the first two spoke sites in phase one. Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont and Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, VT, will be brought on in phase two. Each spoke site will have 24-hour access to geriatric providers at the DHMC hub for assistance when necessary.

“At D-HH, 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,” said 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 on the GED Accreditation Program, visit

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across northern New England. D-HH provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named again in 2020 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 9 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-HH system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.