Skip to content
design lab melanie mccomsey geriatric thornton hospital

Improving Senior Care Through Geriatric Emergency Department Research

Improving Senior Care Through Geriatric Emergency Department Research

Improving Senior Care Through Geriatric Emergency Department Research

Geriatric emergency departments  (GEDs) are specialized facilities designed to cater to the medical needs of the elderly. They are a relatively new trend in hospitals, yet little research has been done on their progress and evolution.

In 2016, UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital received an $11.8 million grant from the Gary and Mary West Foundation to create the San Diego region’s first geriatric emergency room and as of 2017 is now operational. “When we started this project, the geriatric emergency room at UCSD’s Thornton Hospital was already being planned. We wanted to look at the best practices in other existing GED programs that are part of the Geriatric Emergency Department Collaborative. From there we gathered ideas that could be implemented in Thornton hospital,” says Melanie McComsey, a design anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the UC San Diego Design Lab. “We needed to determine what different programs were doing, how those programs evolved, and what they learned.”

A joint project between UCSD Health, UCSD Design Lab, and the non-profit West Health Institute, McComsey and her West Health colleague, James Howard, visited four different GED departments around the United States. The pair performed observational ethnographic research at each of the sites, shadowing providers and getting a sense of their job and workflow. Through this, they were able to gain a better understanding of how each GED operated.

One of the most interesting findings that emerged from the project was that each program had developed locally-specific innovations.

“A lot of the most interesting innovations were closely tailored to that specific program and wouldn’t make sense to implement at Thornton,” says McComsey. “We used ‘‘lead user design’ to look at local providers, and in some cases even local patients. Those patients had noticed a need or an opportunity and had done something about it and the idea spread across the hospital.”

An example of an interesting local innovation was a nurse who created his own follow-up program upon noticing that a number of the patients returned to the ER for reasons related to their previous condition.

“What was really cool about this approach was the nurse was able to get permission from the hospital to follow up with patients at home. He would ride his commuter bike stocked with a first aid kit to these patients’ houses to check-in and follow-up after their ER visit,” says McComsey. “It was so successful that the hospital actually institutionalized these follow-up visits. The hospital purchased a van, got the right insurance and approvals, and sent him back to school to become a nurse practitioner which gave him the skill-set to improve patient care.”

Aside from best practices, another goal of the project was to gain insight on the benefits of GEDs and determine whether they would be an effective way to aid the aging population. The number of people over the age of 65 is set to double within the next 50 years, and it’s important to study this demographic and establish programs to allow them to live comfortably in our society.

Geriatric emergency departments  (GEDs) are specialized facilities designed to cater to the medical needs of the elderly. They are a relatively new trend in hospitals, yet little research has been done on their progress and evolution.

In 2016, UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital received an $11.8 million grant from the Gary and Mary West Foundation to create the San Diego region’s first geriatric emergency room and as of 2017 is now operational. “When we started this project, the geriatric emergency room at UCSD’s Thornton Hospital was already being planned. We wanted to look at the best practices in other existing GED programs that are part of the Geriatric Emergency Department Collaborative. From there we gathered ideas that could be implemented in Thornton hospital,” says Melanie McComsey, a design anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the UC San Diego Design Lab. “We needed to determine what different programs were doing, how those programs evolved, and what they learned.”

A joint project between UCSD Health, UCSD Design Lab, and the non-profit West Health Institute, McComsey and her West Health colleague, James Howard, visited four different GED departments around the United States. The pair performed observational ethnographic research at each of the sites, shadowing providers and getting a sense of their job and workflow. Through this, they were able to gain a better understanding of how each GED operated.

One of the most interesting findings that emerged from the project was that each program had developed locally-specific innovations.

“A lot of the most interesting innovations were closely tailored to that specific program and wouldn’t make sense to implement at Thornton,” says McComsey. “We used ‘‘lead user design’ to look at local providers, and in some cases even local patients. Those patients had noticed a need or an opportunity and had done something about it and the idea spread across the hospital.”

An example of an interesting local innovation was a nurse who created his own follow-up program upon noticing that a number of the patients returned to the ER for reasons related to their previous condition.

“What was really cool about this approach was the nurse was able to get permission from the hospital to follow up with patients at home. He would ride his commuter bike stocked with a first aid kit to these patients’ houses to check-in and follow-up after their ER visit,” says McComsey. “It was so successful that the hospital actually institutionalized these follow-up visits. The hospital purchased a van, got the right insurance and approvals, and sent him back to school to become a nurse practitioner which gave him the skill-set to improve patient care.”

Aside from best practices, another goal of the project was to gain insight on the benefits of GEDs and determine whether they would be an effective way to aid the aging population. The number of people over the age of 65 is set to double within the next 50 years, and it’s important to study this demographic and establish programs to allow them to live comfortably in our society.

Geriatric emergency departments  (GEDs) are specialized facilities designed to cater to the medical needs of the elderly. They are a relatively new trend in hospitals, yet little research has been done on their progress and evolution.

In 2016, UC San Diego’s Thornton Hospital received an $11.8 million grant from the Gary and Mary West Foundation to create the San Diego region’s first geriatric emergency room and as of 2017 is now operational. “When we started this project, the geriatric emergency room at UCSD’s Thornton Hospital was already being planned. We wanted to look at the best practices in other existing GED programs that are part of the Geriatric Emergency Department Collaborative. From there we gathered ideas that could be implemented in Thornton hospital,” says Melanie McComsey, a design anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the UC San Diego Design Lab. “We needed to determine what different programs were doing, how those programs evolved, and what they learned.”

A joint project between UCSD Health, UCSD Design Lab, and the non-profit West Health Institute, McComsey and her West Health colleague, James Howard, visited four different GED departments around the United States. The pair performed observational ethnographic research at each of the sites, shadowing providers and getting a sense of their job and workflow. Through this, they were able to gain a better understanding of how each GED operated.

One of the most interesting findings that emerged from the project was that each program had developed locally-specific innovations.

“A lot of the most interesting innovations were closely tailored to that specific program and wouldn’t make sense to implement at Thornton,” says McComsey. “We used ‘‘lead user design’ to look at local providers, and in some cases even local patients. Those patients had noticed a need or an opportunity and had done something about it and the idea spread across the hospital.”

An example of an interesting local innovation was a nurse who created his own follow-up program upon noticing that a number of the patients returned to the ER for reasons related to their previous condition.

“What was really cool about this approach was the nurse was able to get permission from the hospital to follow up with patients at home. He would ride his commuter bike stocked with a first aid kit to these patients’ houses to check-in and follow-up after their ER visit,” says McComsey. “It was so successful that the hospital actually institutionalized these follow-up visits. The hospital purchased a van, got the right insurance and approvals, and sent him back to school to become a nurse practitioner which gave him the skill-set to improve patient care.”

Aside from best practices, another goal of the project was to gain insight on the benefits of GEDs and determine whether they would be an effective way to aid the aging population. The number of people over the age of 65 is set to double within the next 50 years, and it’s important to study this demographic and establish programs to allow them to live comfortably in our society.

Read Next

Be on your best behavior: San Diego is being judged this week

By Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego and Tijuana are throwing a party for just one man this week, and you’ve probably never heard his name.

Montreal native Bertrand Derome, managing director of the World Design Organization, is getting the red carpet treatment across two nations as the cities vie for the title of World Design Capital.

The award means a global spotlight on the region and lots of free advertising. Selected every two years, the Montreal-based World Design Organization picks a different city as its “capital.” Some previous winners have been Seoul, Helsinki, Cape Town and Mexico City. San Diego and Tijuana decided to apply together as a binational region.

The festivities started Sunday night with a jazz concert, light show and chic party for Derome at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. There were only about 200 people at the event for a venue that can hold 3,500. The $85 million shell on the San Diego Bay opened in August.

“It’s a great city and an amazing venue. I have to say I’m pretty impressed by the design communities that came together,” Derome said at the event.
J. Tanner Cusick

J. Tanner Cusick joins the Design Lab as a Designer-in-Residence

When J. Tanner Cusick took a class called Social Architectures, he never expected that the trajectory of his career would change forever. While pursuing his MFA at UC San Diego, Cusick explains that it was in this class that he and his classmates designed “interventions” around campus. "Basically, we would change the environment and see how it influenced human behavior,” says Cusick. “I did a piece under Geisel that challenged people to use the space differently by creating a game of human Candy Land. I colored all the blocks beneath the library, and everyone came in costumes.” He reflects that what he didn’t realize at the time was that they were really practicing experience design.

It was the combination of this event and Cusick’s experience as a teaching assistant (TA) that taught him what User Experience (UX) was. “While I was a TA, I taught a digital art class and students were assigned The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman. I'd never read the book before and I was amazed by it," said Cusick. It was the ideas in the book that influenced Cusick to shift the context of his work. “I ended up teaching myself about the discipline and doing a lot of UX design and content design. And that's what I have been doing since then."
Uc San Diego Design Lab Emilia Pucci

Design Lab’s ‘Designer in Residence’ Merges Theory & Intellectual Practice with Craftsmanship

To be honest I was not very technically savvy in my early days or a…

Uc San Diego Design Lab Design At Ucsd

Design at UCSD Students Reflect on Summer Internships

This past summer, several members of the Design at UCSD leadership team landed incredible internships alongside leading…

San Diego Regional EDC teams up with Design Lab on Link2 Project

Kate Gallagher with the San Diego Economic Development Corporation (EDC) needed a website redesign for…

Building New Bridges: San Diego And Tijuana’s Combined Bid Breaks Down Barriers To Bi-National Cooperation

Building New Bridges: San Diego and Tijuana’s Combined Bid Breaks Down Barriers to Bi-National Cooperation

As dusk hovered over The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park on October 3 at the ‘Welcome Home, Bienvenido a Casa’ event, reflections off the San Diego Bay illuminated an evening of excited anticipation more than five years in the making. Will the San Diego-Tijuana megaregion take home the win in their bid to be the 2024 World Design Capital? Or will it be their competitors, Moscow?

Hosting the event and spearheading the San Diego-Tijuana bid initiative is the interorganizational collaboration of Design Forward Alliance, UC San Diego Design Lab and the Burnham Center for Community Advancement, with the full support of the City of San Diego and City of Tijuana and regional elected officials. This collective was created to amplify San Diego’s capacity as a global leader in human-centered design-driven innovation. The combined communities of art, culture, business, education, civic and design worked together in a multi-year, multi-national collaboration culminating in this night of solidarity for the joint-effort to win the coveted World Design Capital designation—a year-long city promotion program that would begin in 2024 and put the region on the global stage as a world-class innovator of economic, social, cultural and environmental design solutions for a better society.

“It’s not just about gaining the World Design Capital title,” said the Director of The Design Lab, Mai Thi Nguyen. “It’s about how we actually want to contribute and collaborate on multidisciplinary design innovation throughout the region, nationally and globally.”
Back To Top