Strong and Highland Hospitals Achieve Highest Level of Age-Friendly Health System Certification

May. 19, 2022
UR Aging Institute calls it important step towards system-wide effort

The University of Rochester Aging Institute announced that both Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals have been certified as Age-Friendly Health System (AFHS) participants, part of a nationwide movement to improve health care for older adults.

The “Level 2: Committed to Care Excellence” designation required both hospitals to provide three months of verified data to demonstrate impact in four prioritized areas (the “4Ms”):

  1. What Matters - Know and align care with each older adult's specific health outcome goals and care preferences including, but not limited to, end-of-life care, and across care settings.
  2. Medication - If medication is necessary, use Age-Friendly medications that does not interfere with What Matters to the older adult, Mobility, or Mentation across care settings.
  3. Mentation - Prevent, identify, treat, and manage dementia, depression, and delirium across care settings.
  4. Mobility - Ensure that older adults move safely every day to maintain function and do What Matters.

“Our data confirms the value of creating a framework to improve care for seniors, and that it can be effective even amidst a global pandemic,” said Annette Medina-Walpole, M.D., the Paul H. Fine Professor of Medicine, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Aging, and director of the University of Rochester Aging Institute. "This is one of the first steps on our transformative journey to ensure age-friendly care to older adults across all UR Medicine care settings."

The Age-Friendly Health System is an initiative of The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

As one of the largest health systems in Upstate New York, URMC will play a key role in advancing the AFHS initiative and serve as a model for health systems nationwide.

“This recognition represents hundreds of hours of hard work by our team members who have made Strong Memorial and Highland Hospital premiere destinations for elder care in upstate New York,” said Jennifer Muniak, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Aging at the University of Rochester and geriatrician at Highland Hospital. “We look forward to continuing to build our program so that generations of patients may benefit from the compassionate and excellent care our hospitals have always been known for.”

URMC is taking a multi-pronged approach to its AFHS transformation, Medina-Walpole said, convening an expert team of interdisciplinary health professionals across hospitals and care settings to put the 4Ms into practice by developing care pathways and tracking of older adults who receive 4Ms care. Current sites include Strong and Highland, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, the URMC Center for Perioperative Medicine and the UR Medicine Geriatrics Group outpatient practice.

“Creating an AFHS and embedding the 4M’s throughout the patient experience decreases their vulnerability, improves outcomes, and positively impacts patient satisfaction,” said Teresa Halbert, M.S., R.N., URMC Geriatric Program Coordinator. “We all have older adults in our lives who we deeply care about, so it only makes sense that we establish safeguards to protect them.”

The Geriatric Fracture Centers at Strong Memorial and Highland are examples of age-friendly locations in our health system. "Sharing best practices among our own providers and other AFHS institutions will result in the best, most consistent care possible," said Jenny Shen, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, who leads the AFHS initiative for the Geriatric Fracture Center at Strong.

"By collecting data and defining for our health system the best ways to provide care for the older adult population, we can champion the 4Ms as a package that will create consistency across all clinical locations," said Robert J. Panzer, M.D., URMC chief quality officer. "It's an excellent opportunity to improve what is already being done on our journey towards achieving high reliability."

As part of this work, the University of Rochester was awarded funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration through the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program—a five-year, $3.75 million award and the Geriatric Academic Career Award to provide support to disseminate the Age-Friendly Health System initiative through interprofessional education.

Serving as AFHS champions within their subspecialties and clinical practice sites are current Geriatric Academic Career Award awardee  and AHA Next Generation Leaders Fellow, Jennifer Muniak, M.D., Division of Geriatrics and Aging; Ian Deutchki, M.D., Division of Geriatrics and Aging; and Geriatric Faculty ScholarsSzilvia Arany, DMD, Ph.D., Department of Dentistry; Ciandra D'souza, M.D., MPH, Division of Geriatrics & Aging; Heather Lander, M.D., Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine; and Jenny Shen, M.D., Division of Hospital Medicine.