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Michigan Hospitals Open Senior Emergency Departments

Doug Desjardins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 16, 2011

The senior EDs range in size from 6 to 12 beds and are now a part of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, St. Joseph Mercy Brighton, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron, St. Joseph Mercy Saline,  St. Joseph Mercy Livonia, Chelsea Community Hospital, and St. Joseph Mercy Livingston.

Szczypka said the hospital group developed a comprehensive marketing campaign to publicize its senior emergency departments. It has three radio commercials ranging from 15 to 60-second spots and three TV commercials that feature patient testimonials and an overview presented by an emergency department physician. It's also using print advertisements, social media, and billboards to get the message out.

"We used local advertising as each emergency department opened and launched the regional campaign in January," said Sczcypka.

St. Joseph got the idea from Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, MD, which opened its senior ED in 2008. That hospital is also owned by Trinity Health System, which plans to expand the concept to 10 more hospitals in several state by 2013 and has two openings slated for Iowa this year. In addition to delivering enhanced treatment for seniors, the departments are expected to drive patient volume at the hospitals they serve.

"When you talk about marketing hospitals, there's a saying that kind of everybody knows, which is, 'The emergency room is your hospital's front door,'" said Bill Thomas, MD, a geriatric physician who helped developed the first senior ED at Holy Cross Hospital.

Hospitals in other states, including New Jersey, Texas and Kansas, are also testing the concept.

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