The trouble with visits to the ER lies within the very name of the place: emergency. What that word implies is nothing good. Something’s wrong and you’re at a loss to fix it. Once you get there, there are agonizing waits, and machines beeping and lights flashing and screens flickering with messages you wish you could decipher (in fact, if you can decipher them, your stress level would jump even higher). So how is it that Phyllis Spielberger, a retiree in her 80s, can say, “It’s beautiful…Everything here is wonderful.” when referring to an emergency room in Manhattan’s Mount Sinai hospital?
This recent New York Times article holds the answer: Geriatric Emergency Units Opening at U.S. Hospitals.
In this ER, designed with seniors in mind, there are “no beeping machines or blinking lights or scurrying medical residents.” There are hearing aids, reading glasses, Sudoku puzzles, and iPads that patients can use to communicate with nurses. There is even a skylight “imprinted with a photographic rendering of a robin’s-egg-blue sky, puffy clouds and leafy trees.”
Is this a hospital or a hotel? The Mount Sinai ER probably rivals many nursing homes in terms of extreme comfort and sensitive efficiency.
Other hospitals have followed suit, realizing that “this was the unit that gave better health care to their parents and grandparents,” according to Dr. Mark Rosenberg, who has consulted on over 50 similar projects nationwide.
Per the piece, a focus on elders may have something to do with the strong financial incentives for hospitals too, since nearly 20% of ER visitors are over 65. Healthcare is a business, of course, so you have to follow the money. But if the customers (patients) are satisfied — as most who visit these well-designed elder-friendly ERs probably would be — it makes sense to invest in something that produces better outcomes. Research has also shown there is medical evidence justifying the shift; says the article, “Being treated in the emergency room is often the beginning of a slide for older patients: within three months of being sent home, up to 27 percent have another emergency, are admitted to the hospital or die.” (The frenetic pace of most ERs led to many mistakes in diagnosis and treatment among senior patients as well.)