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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project North Star aims to build better care system for frail elderly

A project to build a seamless system of care for our region`s frail elderly is off to a good start following a launch event in March.

Despite a morning snow storm, about 75 leaders representing health care, non-profit organizations, businesses and local government attended the "community call to action" meeting at the Sharonville Convention Center. Most have signed on to continue with the initiative which has been named Project North Star. The project is sponsored by Council on Aging, Greater Cincinnati Health Council, and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. 

The idea for the project arose from a need to develop a better system of care for older adults who have complex health needs. Many people are involved with hospitals, multiple physicians, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, management of chronic disease, and a variety of home and community-based services. In their present fragmented state, these multiple services and providers become a nightmare for seniors and caregivers to navigate, add avoidable cost, and even become a barrier to good health outcomes. 

"We simply must coordinate and communicate seamlessly or the system, such as it is, will collapse as the population ages," said Sharon Fusco, Council on Aging`s Director of Business Results and Innovation. 

At the meeting in March, participants agreed on a community vision for the future. Elements of the vision include:

  • Older adults and caregivers who are informed and empowered
  • Comprehensive and integrated care management
  • Simple processes and sharing of information
  • Improved long-term care and end-of-life planning
  • Funding that supports a more efficient system of care
  • Culture that supports patients as the central decision makers

The project has set up a structure of "North Star Champions," who will provide insight and guidance and work to get more people engaged; a Leadership Team; and Focus Area Collaborators. Leaders have met with executives from all the major hospital systems in the tristate region. 

Project North Star also has contracted with Joanne Lynn, M.D., Director of the Altarum Institute Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness, and Robert Applebaum, PhD, Director of the Long-term Care Project and Professor, Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University. Lynn and Applebaum will provide guidance and technical assistance. 

Next steps include recruiting more team members and selecting a few projects that can be completed in the next one to two years. Ideas include developing patient care plans that move with the patient from provider to provider and creating some data metrics that help us understand and track how the vulnerable elderly are doing. 

For more information about Project North Star, contact Sharon Fusco at sfusco@help4seniors.org.

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