For many years, the administration of the Careggi University Hospital (CUH), in agreement with the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Florence, has pressed for the creation of a department of general medicine within its othopaedic traumatology centre. In its decision n.243 of May 5, 2009, the administration of the CUH, along the lines of similar experiences already in place, set up a simple departmental unit (SDU) of geriatric medicine (GM) within the hospital’s department of orthopaedics.
The aim of this unit is to guarantee continuity of care to orthopaedics inpatients, through the identification of a specific care pathway for clinically unstable patients. The clinical activity carried out, mainly in the context of the provision of continuity of care, takes the form of daily consultancy. The SDU has a series of objectives, organisational (less postponement of surgery due to medical problems, better integration of healthcare through a multidisciplinary team, provision of internal medicine and geriatric consultancy to guarantee continuity of care), clinical (reduction of peri-operative medical complications and adverse events) and strategic (improvement of the quality of geriatric and internal medicine care, better communication with patients and families). The unit strives to exploit to the full the multi-professional (doctors, rehabilitation therapists, registered nurses, social workers) and interdisciplinary (internal medicine, geriatrics, orthopaedics, physical medicine, anaesthesiology, cardiology, angiology etc.) intervention and, in the fragile elderly, applies a multi-dimensional geriatric assessment instrument.
The physicians working in the GM SDU provide daily consultancy, including Saturday mornings. Constant telephone contact is available, also on Sundays and holidays.
In the period from 1/9/2009 to 31/7/2010, a total of 1867 consultancies were provided, spread over 268 days, which corresponds to a mean of 6.97 examinations/day. Of these, 652 (34.92%) were first visits and 1215 (65.08%) were follow ups. The assessments were always conducted in a spirit of multi-professional and multidisciplinary collaboration.
The assessments were carried out in the following departments: general orthopaedics II (25.98%), general orthopaedics I (21.26%), general orthopaedics III (18.26%), traumatology-orthopaedics (13.55%), orthopaedic oncology and reconstruction (11.25%) as well as, in smaller percentages, in all the other SDUs of the orthopaedics department, in the neurosurgery department, the plastic surgery department and the spinal unit.
In particular, internal and geriatric medicine consultancy for patients was requested in connection with high levels of co-morbidity, polypharmacy regimens, acute confusional state, dehydration, hydro-electrolytic disorders, uncompensated type 2 diabetes mellitus, pulmonary embolism, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, pneumonia and bronchitis causing respiratory insufficiency, decompensated congestive heart failure, targeted antibiotic therapy, chronic renal insufficiency, and management of anti-aggregant and anticoagulant therapies.
Positive aspects: the clinical assessments were made using a multidisciplinary approach, based on the fundamental collaboration of specialists in orthopaedics, anaesthesiology-resuscitation, angiology, cardiology, radiology and physical medicine; excellent collaboration with services (radiology, neuroradiology, angiology, cardiology, etc.).
Negative aspects: constant difficulties transferring clinically unstable patients to the hospital’s medical specialty SDUs due to lack of beds; lack of intermediate care beds as a sort of “buffer” between the intensive care and inpatient departments; scope for improving the internal medicine skills of the nursing staff.
In synergy the hospital’s other SDUs, the GM SDU takes part in projects aiming to improve care and clinical management. It currently has collaborations with the geriatrics clinic, regional centre of reference for haemostasis and thrombosis, the bone metabolism clinic, the orthopaedics clinics, the geriatrics agency, the radiology service, the continuity-of-care agency, the clinical management, and the general affairs unit. Furthermore, on the instigation of the regional health council, a working group has recently been set up on the reorganisation of the “Care pathway of elderly patients with proximal femur fracture (orthogeriatrics)”.
Prospects for implementation and improvement:
The aims of the “Project to reorganise and upgrade the orthopaedics and traumatology centre of the Careggi University Hospital” include: the institution of a medical geriatrics department providing medium and high intensity of care; the presence, 24 hours/day, of a specialist from the medical area in the traumatology open space; the involvement of the internal medicine specialist in pre-hospitalisation procedures.