Program involving community volunteers shows promise for reducing health care use by seniors

Incorporating community volunteers into the health care system shows promise in reducing health care usage by older adults and shifting health care from hospitals to primary care, according to new research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, CMAJ.

David and Debbi Frisby are happy to be able to live comfortably in their own home thanks to several health resources, including Health Tapestry. Lauren O’Malley, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local

Kim Barnhardt, EurekAlert! 6 May 2019

“We found that older adults who took part in the Health TAPESTRY program changed the way in which they used health care services,” says lead author Dr. Lisa Dolovich, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. “Encouragingly, participants had more visits to primary care with fewer [emergency department] and hospital admissions compared to those not in the program.”

The Health TAPESTRY (Health Teams Advancing Patient Experience: Strengthening Quality) project combines new elements, such as using trained volunteers and electronic software, with the current health system, to support optimal aging in adults aged 70 years or older.

While results from the randomized controlled trial did not affect the primary goal of the study, which was to help older adults to reach their health goals, there were other positive effects between the intervention and control groups. For example, there was an increase of 81 minutes of weekly walking time in the intervention group compared with a 120-minute decrease in the control group, and the intervention group reported higher overall levels of physical activity. The volunteers gave primary health care teams information that the health providers might not have otherwise known.

Melvin Osian is one of the Red Cross Health Tapestry volunteers in Hamilton. Canadian Red Cross

“These findings suggest that Health TAPESTRY has the potential to improve the way primary care is delivered in Canada by shifting care of individuals away from hospitals to the community and to a more proactive and preventative team-based model of care,” says coauthor Dr. David Price, chair, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University.

In a related commentary, Dr. Susan Smith, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, writes, “The results of this study suggest that the Health TAPESTRY intervention may contribute to improvements in patient care for older, community-dwelling adults. Further exploration of this model of care is warranted given the challenge for all health systems in shifting from single-condition care pathways to approaches that seek to address multimorbidity.”

Source EurekAlert! AAAS

Health TAPESTRY Combining volunteers and primary care teamwork to support health goals and needs of older adults: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. McMaster Family Medicine. Youtube May 6, 2019
  References

Combining volunteers and primary care teamwork to support health goals and needs of older adults: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial, Dolovich L, Oliver D, Lamarche L, Thabane L, Valaitis R, Agarwal G, Carr T, Foster G, Griffith L, Javadi D, Kastner M, Mangin D, Papaioannou A, Ploeg J, Raina P, Richardson J, Risdon C, Santaguida P, Straus S, Price D. CMAJ. 2019 May 6;191(18):E491-E500. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.181173.

Also see
Program helps seniors remain at home safely Niagara-on-the-Lake Local
Health Tapestry program aims to keep seniors healthy and in their homes Hamilton News
Healthcare is Coming Home The Health Care Blog

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