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MVH Physician To Innovate Patient Care For Nation’s Aging

National advisory role will further work hospital already has in place for geriatrics

Dayton, OH (January 24, 2012) – Larry Lawhorne, MD, came to Miami Valley Hospital in 2006 to create a geriatric program that would enable the hospital to better serve the complex needs of its aging patients.

Nearly six years later, his work has garnered the attention of a national health care entity. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) recently announced that Lawhorne has been chosen to be part of its newly formed Innovation Advisors Program. The initiative brings together health professionals from across the nation to drive improvements in patient care and ultimately reduce costs. Dr. Lawhorne was one of 73 individuals from 27 states and the District of Columbia who were chosen out of 920 applicants.

“I am proud of what I have done with the people I have worked with over the years, but I am not proud of the legacy we are leaving from the system’s perspective for those who are coming up from behind,” said Lawhorne, who is also chair of the department of geriatrics at Wright State University’s School of Medicine. “I am ready to look at more innovative ways to deliver services especially with patients dealing with dementia.”

Applicants were asked to share why they wanted to be a part of the program and also explain how they plan to help change the way health care is delivered in their local community. Lawhorne hopes to use this position to further his work at MVH, which began with the help of local endowments. Through Lawhorne’s leadership, the hospital has been working for several years on a new medical model for how it cares for patients with dementia.

Dementia, a disease that results in a serious loss of global cognitive ability, makes treating traditional health issues such as heart problems or fractured hips much more complex. Dr. Lawhorne has worked to implement a patient-centered medical home model with dementia patients who are served through MVH.

A patient-centered medical home is not a place, but a concept where a patient’s care is much more team oriented.  Medical records, for instance, are stored electronically and shared among a variety of caregivers. Among the advantages, Lawhorne hopes the model will allow more dementia patients to remain in their home for a longer period of time.  

The need for better dementia care is critical for two reasons. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, and the population most affected by it is getting larger. About 36 million Americans are over the age of 65 today, but that number is expected to double to 72 million by 2030. Approximately five million people suffer from dementia today but that number is expected to triple to 16 million by 2050.

“My experience has made me more aware of how fragmented our system is for older adults who are frail,” said Lawhorne, who has 20 years experience working with older adults. “I am optimistic of what CMS wants to do.”

Funding for the initiative was made possible by the Affordable Care Act. MVH will receive a stipend of up to $20,000 to help support Lawhorne’s activities while serving as an Innovation Advisor. Among other duties, advisors will be expected to support the Innovation Center in testing new models of care delivery, to form partnerships with local organizations to drive delivery system reform, and to improve their own health systems so their communities will have better health and improved care at a lower cost.