The era of virtual care offers unique opportunities to use technology to check in on older adults to ensure their safety and well-being. For instance, virtual specialty care allows Summus MDs to get a glimpse into the living situations of older adults.
By talking with older adults, Summus MDs can determine if there are potential fall hazards from loose throw rugs on the floor, or making sure they have adequate food supplies in their refrigerator to stay nourished. In this way, virtual specialty care also offers the opportunity to identify if older adults are experiencing elder abuse.
Older adults who experience elder abuse, which can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, and financial exploitation have a higher risk of dying. To ensure their safety, it is critical to quickly identify elder abuse and intervene. The emergency department (ED) has long been recognized as a place to identify elder abuse.
Dr. Mary Mulcare, Chief Medical Officer at Summus, along with her colleagues and team at Weill Cornell Medicine developed a first-of-its-kind emergency department-based program – the Vulnerable Elder Protection Team or VEPT. The VEPT, a consultation service offered around-the-clock, consists of emergency doctors, geriatricians, nurses, advanced practice providers, and social workers who collaborate to identify and address elder abuse by recommending support strategies and services.
By offering the VEPT program:
- Emergency physicians were quick to activate the program to have patients assessed.
- The safety of older adults improved through changes in their living situation or through receiving additional home care services.
- Early in a patient’s care, providers can streamline hospitalization needs by assessing the social situation and addressing early potential barriers to hospital discharge.
As for the future of the VEPT program, it is being adapted for telehealth consultation services by connecting care teams trained in elder abuse to quickly assess patients and determine appropriate next steps to ensure their safety. This type of telehealth offering is likely beneficial for those working in rural and low-resource clinical settings, in addition to those high-volume urban centers where ED volume reduces the amount of time providers can engage meaningfully for these patients.
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