Chair File: Working to Create Age-Friendly Health Systems

There were 54 million U.S. residents 65 or older in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The agency projects that number will grow by nearly 30 million (to 84 million) by 2050. 

This means that our healthy future depends on a health care system that can handle increased demand for care, as well as one that understands and responds to what matters most to patients in this age group. The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on older adults make age-friendly practices more important and timelier than ever.

Age-Friendly Health Systems — an initiative of The John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of the United States — is a unique approach to care for older adults that hospitals and health systems can begin to adopt now, getting ahead of the learning curve for the demographic changes to come.

When integrated as a set, its “4Ms” — What Matters, Medication, Mentation and Mobility — simplify and organize care efficiently for older adults.  

By joining a virtual learning Action Community, health care teams can learn to implement the 4Ms in their local setting; work toward reducing readmission rates; increase patient and family engagement; and consistently provide the best care to older people in every setting, bringing value to the patient and the organization.

The AHA is convening its second Age-Friendly Health Systems Action Community in mid-September. During the next seven months, it will test the 4Ms framework in hospital and ambulatory settings and share learnings with community members. You can download the invitation guide and enroll here.

With committed clinicians helping to drive the work, the goal is to reach older adults by spreading the Age-Friendly Health System to 1,000 hospitals and practices by the end of 2020, and to 2,500 by the end of 2023.

Participation in the Age-Friendly Health Systems Action Community is preparation for the future … helping hospitals to plan ahead, and redeploy and prioritize existing resources, if necessary, to serve a rapidly growing patient population. 

At some point, all of us may depend on a hospital or provider who is expertly trained in the nuances of caring for older adults. This initiative is another integral part of advancing health for everyone. I encourage you to give it a look.