Background: The proportion of older people needing acute care is rapidly growing, thereby posing an increased burden on the acute care chain. The aim of this study is to gain more insight into the obstacles and potential improvement opportunities of the acute care process for older patients arriving at the hospital.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted to determine the experiences of 18 different primary (i.e. general practitioner, community nurse) and secondary healthcare professionals (i.e. emergency department (ED) nurse, ED physician, geriatric physician, geriatric nurse, ambulance nurse, acute medical unit nurse), and three experts (2 researchers, 1 older adult advisor).
Results: Four core themes emerged from the interviews: 1) The concept of frailty, awareness concerning frail older patients, and identification of frailty, 2) Barriers in the care process of older patients within the acute care chain, 3) Optimising the discharge process of older patients, and 4) Improvement opportunities suggested by the respondents. Early identification of frailty, improving the continuity of care by means of structured information exchange between care providers in the acute care chain, and a more generalist approach were considered important by the respondents in order to deliver appropriate care to older patients.
Conclusion: This explorative study identified several barriers and improvement opportunities which are important to improve the quality, efficacy and appropriateness of the acute care of older patients. More seems needed in the future in order to share experiences, expertise and develop potential improvement strategies for the acute care of older patients.