A community virtual ward model to support older persons with complex health care and social care needs.

Authors: Lewis C, Moore Z, Doyle F, Martin A, Patton D, Nugent LE


Clin Interv Aging. 2017;12:985-993

BACKGROUND: Globally the older population is increasing rapidly. As a result there is an increase in frail older persons living within the community, with increased risks of a hospital admission and higher mortality and morbidity rates. Due to complexity of care, health care professionals face challenges in providing effective case management and avoiding unplanned admissions to hospital. A community virtual ward (CVW) model was developed to assist health care professionals to support older persons at home during periods of illness and/or functional decline.
METHODS: A quantitative observational study was conducted to examine if a CVW model of care reduced unplanned hospital admissions and emergency department (ED) presentations in 54 patients over a 12-month period. The sign-rank test examined matched data on bed days, ED presentations, and unplanned hospital admissions pre- and post-CVW implementation. Other risk factors for admission to hospital were examined using the Mann-Whitney test pre-and post-CVW admission, including falls, living alone, and cognition. Correlations between hospital admission avoidances and unplanned hospital admissions and ED presentations were tested using Spearman's ρ test.
RESULTS: There was a reduction in ED presentations post-CVW admission (P<0.001), and median unscheduled admissions were reduced (P=0.001). Those living alone had a lower number of ED presentations (median 0.5, interquartile range 0-1) prior to admission in comparison to those living with a caregiver, with no differences observed during admission to CVW. For those who experienced a fall during CVW admission, the odds ratio (OR) of requiring long-term care doubled for each extra fall (OR =2.24, 95% CI 1.11 to 4.52, P=0.025). Reduced cognition was associated with an increased risk of ED presentations (ρ=0.292, P<0.05) but not associated with increased risks of unplanned hospital admissions (ρ=0.09, P=0.546). There were no significant correlations seen between admission avoidance and the number of unplanned hospital admissions or ED presentations.
CONCLUSION: Through an integrated approach to care, a CVW model in the care of older persons can reduce ED presentations and unplanned hospital admissions.



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