Helping seniors avoid hospital

SA emergency department presentations by seniors project launched

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IMPROVED CARE: Seniors are at the heart of a campaign to stop frequent hospital visits.

IMPROVED CARE: Seniors are at the heart of a campaign to stop frequent hospital visits.


A project has been launched to help work out how to prevent senior citizens from needing SA's emergency departments.


Improving the care of older Australians to help them avoid hospital emergency departments will be the focus of a new project awarded funding from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Led by Flinders University in partnership with SA Health's Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and the SA Ambulance Service, the research will engage patients and the medical community to find the best way forward for treating older people who make up almost a quarter of all ED visits.

"Emergency departments across Australia are often overwhelmed by the high demand from our growing aging population but nearly half of the visits are potentially preventable," said Flinders University's Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Director of Rehabilitation, Aged, and Palliative Care at SAHLN and the project's Chief Investigator.

"While they don't always have life-threatening conditions, older people do require urgent and complex care, and this can often be better managed outside of an emergency department."

In 2021, SAHLN introduced a new model of urgent care for older people, known as CARE, designed to improve care for older patients by providing alternative treatment pathways to the ED when emergency care is not required.

"Evidence has shown admission avoidance programs can be an effective treatment method, so we designed this model in conjunction with patients, geriatricians, emergency physicians, the state ambulance service, allied health and nursing and hospital managers," Prof Whitehead said.

Associate Prof Whitehead and his team have been awarded over $1.1 million in MRFF funding to assess the outcome of this new model.

The team will evaluate the CARE service and the Virtual Rehab Unit to understand its impact on the health system, as well as undertake an economic evaluation.

"Importantly, we will be working directly with the Council on the Ageing to find out what older Australians value about emergency care and what is important to them."