Medical Residents Shadow CICOA Care Managers to Understand Environmental Challenges of Seniors

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St. Vincent Health medical residents are getting real-world experience that most young doctors—or even veterans physicians—don’t get to do. They’re shadowing CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions care managers to better understand the environmental challenges that low-income seniors face.

It is part of a new partnership between CICOA and St. Vincent Health led by Dustin Ziegler, CICOA’s director of community programs, and Dr. Diane Healey, who specializes in geriatrics at St. Vincent Health Center for Healthy Aging and also serves on CICOA’s Medical Advisory Council.

Medical residents are required to do a geriatrics rotation. As of January, that rotation means spending time with CICOA care managers as they do home visits. It allows residents a chance to better understand the services CICOA offers, in addition to understanding seniors’ needs at home and outside of the clinical setting.

Growing evidence around social determinants of health shows that as much as 80 percent of a patient’s health outcome is contributed to the environment, Ziegler said. Traditionally, a health outcome is measured by whether a patient sees the doctor, follows doctor’s orders and takes medications that are prescribed. Studies show there is so much more that determines a patient’s health outcomes, and it’s important the medical community understands those determinants, Ziegler said.

“What if you don’t have transportation to get to the grocery or to the pharmacy to get prescriptions? What if a caregiver doesn’t have the proficiencies to understand the medications or following the treatment plan? All of these have direct effects on health outcomes, and they have nothing to do with clinical visits,” Ziegler said. “We need all these other things to come together for better health outcomes.”

That’s what the young St. Vincent doctors are learning.

“It’s been a real eye-opener for them,” Ziegler said.

It also provides them with a chance to learn what resources are available through CICOA, as many of these residents will become family physicians, internists or specialize in geriatrics in the area.

“This is a great opportunity for these young doctors to get to see the work CICOA is doing,” said Dr. Healey. “There isn’t really another experience for these future physicians to gain an understanding of all the complex health variables this patient population faces like the experience they are getting in this partnership. It’s a real win-win for everyone.”

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