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Local News

Santa Barbara Seniors Find Peace of Mind With DASH Medical Care Program

Doctors Assisting Seniors at Home has enrolled more than 1,100 people for its rapid-response care program

Marjorie Barrett felt a bit under the weather a few months ago, so the 91-year-old San Roque resident decided to figure out why.

Instead of finding a way to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital — since the DMV decided she shouldn’t drive anymore — Barrett called DASH (Doctors Assisting Seniors at Home), a rapid-response medical-care program for South Coast seniors.

A nurse practitioner arrived at her home within the hour to take Barrett’s blood pressure, concluding after the typical tests that she needed an MRI at the hospital.

“She said, ‘I believe there’s something seriously wrong and you should see a doctor immediately,’” Barrett recalled. “I really think they saved my life because I had a blood clot. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what it was. If I hadn’t belonged to DASH, I probably wouldn’t have called anybody.”

Barrett would not have had time to set up an appointment with her primary-care physician, who actually recommended Barrett enroll in the 2-year-old, fee-based program meant to cut down on Medicare costs and on hospitalizing seniors.

“You don’t have to be at death’s door for them to come and help,” Barrett said. “There are things you can always call 9-1-1 for, and things like that, but (my doctor) thought this was a much better idea, and I took her up on it. I’m awfully glad I did.”

Barrett is among the more than 1,100 seniors who have enrolled to receive urgent medical care in their own homes.

With an average response time of 40 minutes from phone call to front door, DASH enrollees average a 38-percent drop in emergency room visits and a 41-percent reduction in hospitalizations, according to Dr. Michael Bordofsky, DASH executive project manager.

Bordofsky helped launch the program in 2012, when Palliative Care Consultants of Santa Barbara, a physician provider group, received a $4.2 million Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Award. DASH serves seniors 60 and older, from Goleta to Summerland.

Some seniors hate going to the hospital and scheduling an appointment with a family doctor doesn’t always cut it, Bordofsky explained.

“When people are sick, they can’t wait a week to get care,” he said. “That kind of model is the opposite of patient-centered. Our role is to (provide care) really quickly. We think there are a lot who still could use our services.”

To enroll in DASH, seniors pay $60 for individuals and $90 for couples monthly, with no cost to those living in low-income housing or those receiving Medi-Cal.

DASH sends one of its five experienced nurses, three nurse practitioners or six rotating on-call physicians to homes checking on coughs, fevers, bladder infections or other urgent injuries — most of which can be treated on the spot — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

The program has logged more than 1,600 visits to date for enrollees, who have an average age of 81. About 80 percent of them live independently.

DASH continues to grow, and this year the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens and AARP named it the senior citizen program of the year.

Bordofsky said DASH is looking to partner with other area senior-focused organizations, especially since grant funding could sunset as soon as mid-2015 and because the program provides so many seniors and their relatives with peace of mind.

As an enrollee for more than a year, Barrett lauded DASH for actually doing what the program says it will.

“I’ve called them about smaller things, and always they send somebody,” she said. “I think they do a terrific job. I’ve had falls, and I’ve gone the ambulance route, and I prefer DASH.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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