Innovation Center Explores Ways to Improve Quality of Life, Health of Seniors
Posted on Oct 19, 2011
As baby boomers age, America has to find better ways to ensure that everyone has access to excellent health care – whenever and wherever they need it, says Paul Tang, M.D., the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s (PAMF) chief innovation and technology officer.
He is heading up an exciting new project that looks at how relationships can be forged in communities to improve the quality of life and health of Americans. The focus goes beyond treating injury or illness at the doctor’s office or hospital. It includes keeping people healthy, happy and independent at home as they age.
“To reform America’s health care system, we must rethink everything,” he says. “That includes reinventing our role in sustaining the health of our communities. We’re out to create a partnership with our communities around health, not just health care.”
In November 2010, the David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation launched its first incubation project, Successful Aging, with a series of workshops and field studies to define the health challenges that interfere with seniors’ independence and quality of life.
“People going through major life changes need more than a doctor to care for them, they need a village,” Dr. Tang explains. “To raise the health status of individuals who live in a community, you need to engage the whole community.”
The Innovation Center is exploring ways to help seniors take steps to remain vibrant and prevent health complications, and to provide comprehensive support if a medical event does occur. A central goal is to establish PAMF as one among many community partners that stand ready to help seniors alleviate health problems.
“Many of the resources seniors need already exist in our communities,” he explains. “PAMF needs to play the role of connecter and organizer to help match the needs of seniors with resources available at PAMF and in the community.”
Already, the Innovation Center has established a strategic alliance with Avenidas Village, a program created in 2007 by the community-based, nonprofit organization Avenidas to help seniors stay in the homes they love.
“Any PAMF patient who is also a member of Avenidas Village is now tagged in PAMF’s electronic health record,” Dr. Tang explains. “In our connector role, we can direct seniors to the services provided by Avenidas Village, whether they need transportation to medical appointments or help transitioning from a hospital back to home. Conversely, with the patient’s permission, Avenidas can be the ‘eyes and ears’ to alert clinicians if a PAMF patient has a change in his or her health condition.”
By addressing daily health barriers, the Successful Aging project has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life for seniors in our community.
The mission of the Innovation Center is to work on breakthrough innovations that fundamentally change the way America delivers health care. Dr. Tang pointed out that philanthropic support from the community is needed to fully realize the vision of this first Innovation Center project, and other projects that will surely follow.
“We want to reinvent the way health care is delivered for our senior patients, and we are actively seeking to establish partnerships with organizations that have the capability, capacity and leadership commitment to be part of that effort.”
For more than 80 years, the not-for-profit Palo Alto Medical Foundation has been recognized as a national innovator in the practice of medicine, from introducing the first freestanding outpatient surgery center west of the Mississippi in 1976 to being one of the first in the country to provide an electronic health record (EHR) and implement online health information resources in 1999.
PAMF established the David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation in June 2010 to respond to these societal imperatives. The late Dr. David Druker, who served as PAMF’s chief executive officer for 11 years preceding his death in July 2010, appointed Dr. Tang to direct the Innovation Center.
Dr. Tang is also very active in Washington, D.C., holding leadership positions on a number of national advisory committees on health information technologies and quality.
“As doctors we are trusted partners, perfectly positioned to take the knowledge we have about people’s health and well-being and create connections to services that will benefit the individual, the community and the society,” he says.
“Today, we are acting because we need an urgent solution. We are investing in change because it’s the right thing to do.”