West Health is committed to making successful aging a reality. We sat down with Shelley Lyford, Founder & CEO, Gary & Mary West Foundation; West Health to learn more about their initiatives and their impact on Aging Americans.

Why is West Health participating in the Summit 2016?
To engage with key stakeholders on research, policy and advocacy initiatives that make successful aging a reality for seniors, and increase the availability of high-quality home-centered and community-based programs throughout the country.

Tell us your disruptive innovation story. What is West Health working on that changes the game for healthcare and Aging Americans?
Through a combination of applied research, policy and community-based initiatives and outcomes-based funding, the West Health Institute and its related organizations are focused on supporting or developing sustainable healthcareWest Health & Successful Aging delivery models for seniors that treat the patient holistically, improve the quality and coordination of care, and increase affordability.

Our special focus is on lower-income seniors who oftentimes are dealing with multiple chronic conditions and lack access to high-quality healthcare and social services and support.

Through our work, the West Health Institute and our related organizations (Policy Center, Foundation) are creating models of excellence in San Diego and throughout the country. They include:

  • San Diego’s first geriatric emergency department in a major health system, which will become part of a national research collaborative;
  • A senior dental and oral health center integrated within a popular senior wellness center to provide comprehensive and holistic care and support;
  • A senior health clinic that affords access to services and support to meet the physical, mental and social care needs for seniors; and,
  • Creation and support for a more personalized connected and automated discharge process and transition of care model.

What do you see as the single most untapped opportunity in healthcare today? 
We believe the evidence shows—when structured and scaled appropriately— home-centered and community-based models of care, which are significantly underutilized in this country, can be a critical focal point of care for seniors, offering a safe and effective complement to traditional hospital-based care. The idea is to deliver health and supportive care where it’s best for the patient—and for many seniors dealing with chronic disease—the best place may be in their own homes rather than in the hospital.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to improving healthcare for Aging Americans?
Our current healthcare system is highly fragmented and geared toward the management and treatment of acute instead of chronic illness, and more than 60% of seniors live with one or more chronic diseases.

We must think differently about seniors and their relationship to the healthcare system and the communities in which they live. How do they want to live? How responsive are the current systems to the needs of seniors? What does the data tell us about outcomes, and how do we translate this data into action and better policy?

We must remove the barriers to successful aging to both improve the lives of the nation’s seniors and the lives of an aging America. The system for seniors is in need of a makeover as we face the largest demographic shift in American history – the aging of America. This is a tremendous challenge, but also offers us a great opportunity to create a better and more responsive system of healthcare and supportive services.

Paint us a picture of the healthcare delivery system for Aging Americans 5 years from today?
At West Health we are committed to helping seniors age successfully – enabling them to live their lives on their own terms with access to high-quality health and support services that preserve and protect one’s dignity, quality of life and independence.

In five years, we hope home-centered and community-based care will be more widely available throughout the country, that there will be more senior-specific models of care, fewer preventable hospital readmissions for seniors, and better support for family caregivers. We would also like to see seniors have greater access to oral healthcare and a greater recognition of the connection of oral health to overall health, and models of care that address both. We also hope there is better coordination of care for those with chronic diseases, and greater availability of long-term services and supports.

About Shelley Lyford

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Shelley Lyford is president and CEO of the Gary and Mary West Foundation and West Health, which are advancing innovative healthcare delivery models that enable seniors to age successfully. Lyford chairs the board of directors for the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center and serves on the Executive Committee of Grantmakers in Aging. Previously, she served as a director at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Joan Kroc Institute at the University of San Diego.[/author]

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