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Software to Improve the Care of an Aging Brain

March 14, 2013
by John DeGaspari
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Decision support system for a population at risk

Medical records software developed by geriatricians and informaticists from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging Research in Indianapolis is aimed at providing more personalized health care for older adult patients, a population at significant risk for mental health decline and disorders.

A study published in eGEMs, a peer-reviewed online publication of the Electronic Data Methods Forum, describes Electronic Medical Record Aging Brain Care (EMR-ABC) software, an automated decision-support system that enables care coordinators to track the health of the aging brain and help meet the complex bio-psycho-social needs of patients and their informal caregivers.

The eMR-ABC captures and monitors the cognitive, functional, behavioral and psychological symptoms of older adults suffering from dementia or depression. It also collects information on the burden placed on patients' family caregivers, according to the researchers. Using this information, the application provides decision support to care coordinators, who, working with physicians, social workers and other members of the health care team, create a personalized care plan that includes evidence-based non-pharmacological protocols, self-management handouts and alerts of medications with potentially adverse cognitive effects. The software's built-in engine tracks patient visits and can be used to generate population reports for specified indicators such as cognitive decline or caregiver burnout.

"The number of older adults is growing rapidly. Delivering personalized care to this population is difficult and requires the ability to track a large number of mental and physical indicators," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Malaz Boustani, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the IU Center for Aging Research and associate professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, said in a statement. He is senior author of the new study. "The software we have developed will help care coordinators measure the many needs of patients and their loved ones and monitor the effectiveness of individualized care plans."

In clinical trials over the past decade, Regenstrief and the IU Center for Aging Research investigator-clinicians developed and demonstrated the efficacy of an Alzheimer's disease collaborative care model called the Aging Brain Care Medical Home. A hallmark of the ABC-MedHome is the employment of care coordinators who help clinicians identify and manage processes and protocols for Alzheimer's patients who receive care in local primary care physician offices. The ABC-MedHome has been shown to improve the quality of Alzheimer's care and decrease its burden on the health care system, according to a statement. Within the ABC-MedHome program, Dr. Boustani and colleagues have developed, tested, implemented and improved software that is sensitive to the clinical needs of a multispecialty team of professionals who provide care to complex patients across a variety of settings. The software allows tracking of individual patient health outcomes as well as the ability to follow the status of an entire patient population with key quality, health and cost metrics.

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