FAQs: UM Health System-St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor ACE unit

1.    What is ACE?

An Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit is a nationally renowned and innovative model of care designed to improve health outcomes for older adults who are hospitalized. There are just a select few such inpatient care units in the country based on this specialized model that hinges on a geriatric-friendly environment and focus on care proven to better help this population of patients thrive.

2.    Why are U-M and St. Joe’s creating this unit together? 

The ACE unit collaboration is the latest initiative to come from a 2012 affiliation agreement between UMHS and Trinity Health-Michigan that has  opened the door to opportunities to improve inpatient hospital capacity, high-complexity care for the most seriously ill patients, children’s care, cancer care, physician training and hiring and clinical research. This is an example of how two strong health systems with excellent care can work together to improve utilization of health care resources, improve the patient experience and meet a growing demand in the community.

3.    What are the physical features of UM Health System-St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s ACE unit that make it specialized for seniors?

The ACE unit is an environment specially prepared for older adults that supports functional needs, encourages mobility and socialization.  It features private, spacious rooms in a peaceful, quiet area separate from the rest of the hospital, and décor that promotes a homelike atmosphere.  Everything is designed with the senior’s special needs in mind, including non-skid floors to help prevent falls, pressure-relieving mattresses to minimize the risk of developing pressure ulcers, low-set beds and soft lighting.  

A special family room area for patients and families provides space to socialize and share a snack or meal with a scenic view from the tenth floor. This area has a separate dining area, comfortable seating, TV, game table and books. There is also a designated area with a desk and computer for patient use.

4.    What are the clinical benefits of the ACE model?

The ACE team takes a holistic approach to senior care that includes access to board certified geriatric physicians, geriatric medicine-trained nurses, physical occupational therapists, a social worker, chaplain, pharmacist and dietitian.

Research shows that older patients experience a functional decline associated with the hospital stay, such as disorientation and lack of mobility. The ACE unit team works closely with patients and family members to customize care for each patient to improve mobility, reduce depression, and address such issues as independent functioning, comfort level, skin health, nutrition and response to treatment.

5.    Who is the ACE unit for?

This unit will be for patients age 65 and older who are hospitalized and who do not need urgent surgery or have other conditions that render them too unstable for a medical floor.  Examples include patients with medical problems such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, heart failure, falls and confusion.  Patients who require specialty consultation (such as Cardiology), or who become too ill to remain in the ACE unit will receive specialty care from the St. Joseph Hospital consultants or Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

6.    Where is it?

The unit is on the tenth floor of St. Joe’s East Tower.

7.    How do patients get admitted into the ACE unit? Can they just go to St. Joe’s if they want to be treated? All admittance will be physician directed based on specific needs.  The patient’s physician will speak to the geriatrician to determine admission suitability. Patients may be admitted through UMHS and St. Joe emergency departments, geriatric clinics, physician offices and sub-acute rehab facilities. Patients coming from the UMHS ED and sub-acute facilities will be transferred via ambulance.

8.    Who will patients receive treatment from?

Patients will receive specialized elder care treatment by a dedicated team of health care providers led by UMHS geriatrician Karen Hall, M.D., Ph.D., who will serve as the unit’s Medical Director. Three other UMHS geriatricians and one from St. Joe’s will also provide care in the unit, in addition to an interdisciplinary team of St. Joe’s geriatric medicine-trained nurses, physical occupational therapists, a social worker, chaplain, pharmacist and dietitian.

9.    What is the unit’s capacity?

The ACE unit will open with eight beds and is expected to quickly ramp up to 16 beds. Eventually the unit is capable of growing to 32 beds.