The AAI’s director, Claudia J. Beverly, PhD, RN, FAAN, said that these two components are funded separately but go hand in hand in practice. New patients usually see a physician for an initial examination. APRNs are responsible for health promotion and disease prevention—mammograms and flu shots, for example—as well as analyses of current drug regimens. For patients with complex conditions, social workers make referrals and work with families on nursing home placement.
Almost all older Arkansans can now access interprofessional geriatric care within an hour’s drive of their home. Patients are quite satisfied with their care and with the team approach (Beverly et al., 2007). Unpublished analyses of the areas around the centers show lower rates of emergency room use and hospitalization and higher rates of health care knowledge among elderly patients.
Physicians at the eight sites report to Dr. Beverly, who is also director of UAMS’s Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, which provides some funding to the AAI. She has hired a nurse with a doctorate and a geriatrician to act as associate directors. Developing teamwork has been a priority. “This is such a beautiful case study in how nursing and medicine can work together,” she said, “and how, together, we can do good things.”
There have been some obstacles: primary care services are dependent upon Medicare funding, and with an annual budget of $2 million to divide among eight sites, additional revenue is needed. There also may not be enough clinicians trained in geriatrics available. And although Dr. Beverly believes that APRNs “should have their own panel of patients,” they see only returning patients at the centers. She said funding has been secured to further evaluate how best to use team members.
The model has continued to evolve from the first center in Northwest Arkansas that Dr. Beverly started as a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow. That site is developing a program for the training of in-home caregivers, including home health aides and family members. And a new telehealth project will allow patients and clinicians to “see” a specialist electronically. “Economically, this is going to provide a huge benefit to patients,” Ms. Overton-McCoy said.