April 27, 2020

Age-Friendly Healthcare in Rural Arkansas

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By Leah Tobey, MBA, PT, DPT
Clinical Coordinator
UAMS Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative


My name is Dr. Leah Tobey and I am the clinical coordinator for the AGEC team. As part of our HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, we have goals to improve clinical health outcomes of older adults in the primary care setting. Our partnered clinics are with ARcare, a federally qualified healthcare clinic network. Specifically, the two clinics where we partner with to improve outcomes for older adults are ARcare England and ARcare Augusta. I help provide up-to-date and evidenced-based trainings to clinicians, particularly focused on age-friendly work practices, tests and measures to enhance patient experiences and improve outcomes of older adults in these rural areas.

As a member of the 2020 Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Age-Friendly cohort, we at AGEC have requested the ARcare clinics to implement the 4Ms framework to optimize the care of older adults. This framework is not a program, but rather a shift in how care is provided.  The 4Ms framework consists of: What Matters to the older adult, high-risk Medication review, cognitive and Mentation screens, and Mobility tests for fall prevention. Through a variety of geriatric-focused trainings, including the 4Ms framework, our first goal was to improve the clinician’s knowledge of best practices of caring for older adults. We then collected baseline data of common health related indicators for older adults, such as uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, number of patients prescribed high-risk medications like opioids and older adults who experience frequent falls. The 4Ms framework for age-friendly care has been well-received and AGEC is continuing to monitor how and when this framework is being implemented into primary care, including Medicare annual wellness visits.

We know the population of older adults, specifically the Baby Boomer population, continues to increase, and we expect the 4Ms framework will be a helpful guide to ensure that older adults are delivered safe, age-friendly healthcare. This framework helps to ensure patients move safely every day in order to maintain function and do what Matters​ most to them (ihi.org). We have seen promising results in several areas, for example, assessing Mobility​ with fall screens has improved over 50% in one year in the ARcare England clinic. ARcare England also had a 30% increase in annual wellness visits for Medicare patients in one year. We continue to address areas of improvement, using the 4Ms framework as a helpful guide to care. As I mentioned above, the 4Ms framework includes Mentation screens specifically for the presence of the 3D’s: Dementia, Delirium and Depression. Early, accurate screening procedures will allow the clinicians to prevent, identify, treat, and manage cognitive changes noted in an older adult patient. When cases of depression or dementia are caught early, we want the ARcare clinicians to have the knowledge to treat with age-friendly care and also provide helpful community resources for patients and their families. This goal coincides with the healthy aging programs the AGEC brings to Arkansans across our state.

Despite difficult times recently, we at AGEC have been busy creating and providing clinical trainings to continue building upon the early, positive results within ARcare. I’m happy to report as of March 2020 ARcare England and Augusta have been awarded the certification of being “Age-Friendly Healthcare Systems” by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. We are looking forward to continued improvements in health-related indicators for older adults in our rural ARcare communities and to making them more age-friendly.