ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Each year, half of all residents in nursing homes and other senior care facilities experience a fall. Many times the falls lead to broken wrists or hips. HealthPartners, however, is demonstrating that a fall doesn’t have to mean an immediate trip to the emergency room or a stay in a hospital.

HealthPartners Geriatric Fracture Program is improving care and helping patients avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital admissions by bringing care directly to the patient. That means patients avoid the ER – a setting that can be disruptive and frightening – and it also reduces potentially unnecessary risks and costs.

Taking services to the patient

Here’s how the program works: HealthPartners Geriatric Fracture Program serves more than 100 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metro area. When staff at the care facility suspect a patient has a fracture, they alert the patient’s primary care provider. Instead of having the patient transported to a hospital, the physician can have a mobile x-ray technician go to the nursing home or assisted living facility to take digital images. These images are then transmitted over the internet and reviewed by Julie Switzer, MD, the head of the Geriatric Fracture Program at Regions Hospital.

If the fracture doesn’t require hospitalization, a HealthPartners geriatric nurse practitioner will travel to the care facility at any time of the day or night, conduct a physical exam, treat the injury—often using a cast or splint—and make plans for appropriate activity, therapy and follow-up care. There is no cost to the care facility for this service and the patients’ health insurance pays for the medical care.

Peter Cole, MD, head of HealthPartners Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine division, estimates that in care facilities served by the Geriatric Fracture Program, about 60 percent of elderly patients with non-operative fractures are now being treated in the nursing or residential home where they live.

For fractures that may require surgery, such as a hip fracture, Switzer and the nurse practitioners work with the patient’s primary care provider and family to determine the next steps. Often times, the nurse practitioners can arrange direct admission to Regions Hospital, bypassing the need to go to the emergency room and saving patients and families the hours they might wait to see a physician.

In addition to remote consults for fractures, HealthPartners Geriatric Fracture Program brings post-operation care and other mobile clinic services such as injections directly to patients.


  • Number of nursing homes, transitional care and assisted living facilities served: 110
  • Number of patients served by HealthPartners geriatrics division each year: 3,500
  • Number of geriatric fracture consults per year: 300
  • Estimated costs savings from directly admitting surgical patients and avoiding the ER: $8,500 per patient
  • Estimated cost savings for treating non-operative cases in the care facility: nearly $6,000 per patient

Growth in need for orthopedic care

The incidence and cost for treating fractures is expected to increase substantially as the population ages. By 2030, the number of Minnesotans who are over the age of 65 will double to about one in four people in the state.

“Hip and wrist fractures are among the most common visits to the ER for elderly patients, and the short and long-term strains on patients following a fracture can be devastating,” Switzer said, referring to problems such as confusion, loss of appetite, pneumonia and bed sores that can result from a hospitalization. “Our Geriatric Fracture Program tries to do everything it can to minimize that risk while helping these patients heal.”

About HealthPartners

Founded in 1957, HealthPartners is the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation. It is dedicated to improving the health of its members, patients and the community. Since its combination with Park Nicollet in 2013, its care system includes more than 1,700 physicians; five hospitals; 51 primary care clinics; 22 urgent care locations; and numerous specialty practices in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. HealthPartners also provides medical education and conducts research through its Institute for Education and Research.