Break The Trend of Osteoporosis

It’s time to break the trend of osteoporosis and decrease bone fractures in adults of all ages and that is why Bon Secours Richmond Health System developed the Healthy Bones Team. Composed of medical experts from several different disciplines and practice areas, the Healthy Bones Team believes that these staggering statistics on osteoporosis add plenty of backbone to the team’s mission to prevent first-time and repeat fractures from occurring:

  • About half of women over age 50, and about one in five men, will break a bone due to osteoporosis
  • Men are twice as likely as women to die in the year following a hip fracture
  • Osteoporosis causes an estimated two million broken bones each year
  • About 54 million Americans age 50 and older are at risk of osteoporosis

“Fractures of any kind, especially if the patient is age 45 or older, should be identified as a possible indicator for osteoporosis, which can easily be determined with a bone density scan,” said Alan Stern, M.D., FACR, FACP, director of the Bon Secours Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Richmond. “Once diagnosed with osteoporosis, patients can learn about a variety of treatment options that may or may not include medications. Our goal is to educate all hospital systems about the importance of implementing a structured framework of care for fracture patients that will help prevent repeat fractures.”

Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital is already working with multidisciplinary fracture teams to lead this effort for Bon Secours Richmond Health System. Brenda Gemmell, RN, orthopaedic program coordinator at St. Mary’s Hospital, has been collaborating on the Healthy Bones Team initiative to create a process for referrals and follow up care for osteoporosis.

“We started with hip fracture patients because that type of fracture can have devastating results, but ultimately we want all fragility fracture patients to be referred for follow up to determine if they are at risk of osteoporosis,” Gemmell said. “The process developed by the Healthy Bones Team spans the complete continuum of fracture care, starting with a referral to a primary care physician or to a specialty center like Dr. Stern’s, then creating a full-scope treatment plan to decrease the risk of subsequent fractures. The treatment plan includes such things as assessing osteoporosis risk through bone density scans, lab tests and beginning medication therapy if needed.”

According to Sean McCleary, director of senior services for Bon Secours Richmond Health System, a comprehensive fracture care system that includes initiatives to prevent fractures from occurring in the first place is vital from a population health perspective. “Hip fractures represent a significant mortality risk to older adults, so this program aims to diagnose and treat patients prior to a catastrophic fracture late in life,” he said.

Steven White, an RN and nurse navigator at Bon Secours, would like to see osteoporosis get the same level of attention that is focused on cancer and cardiac disease. “The number of elderly people having falls is increasing every day nationwide, so we really need to promote education and awareness about bone health,” he said, noting that May is National Osteoporosis Month. “Recovery from a fracture can be very long and very expensive. Our team has one goal—to ensure the safety of our patients by educating them and providing them with the best care to prevent fractures from occurring or reoccurring.”

One of the most critical components of the fracture care initiative is creating a strategy for care after surgery and rehabilitation have concluded. “An important part of our mission at Bon Secours is to provide preventive solutions, and we want to avoid having patients return later with additional fractures,” said Michael Baldwin, a physician assistant and manager of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the orthopaedic program for Bon Secours Richmond Health System. “Our Healthy Bones Team works closely with patients to facilitate bone density scans that determine the severity of the osteoporosis, as well as to make recommendations on medicines, foods and exercises that help maintain bone health for the long term.”

Make no bones about it, the Bon Secours Healthy Bones Team is adamant about helping people of all ages keep bones strong and healthy for a lifetime. In order to accomplish that, the Bon Secours Healthy Bones Team urges that everyone in the medical community who is involved with fractures—primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants and others—understand that fractures can be indicators of osteoporosis and serve as a major predictor of future fractures. Further evaluation and consideration osteoporosis therapy after a fracture is essential.

“Current available information suggests that a low percentage of patients with low trauma fractures treated in hospitals throughout the country are ever evaluated or treated for osteoporosis,” concluded Dr. Stern. “We hope that our efforts will help to improve upon this in order to benefit the health and well-being of our communities.”

Here are 10 tips to prevent falls and fractures.

  1. Remove or secure throw rugs
  2. Keep stairs free of clutter
  3. Use handrails on stairs
  4. Install grab bars in the bathroom beside the tub, shower and toilet
  5. Consider using a shower chair or bench and a hand-held showerhead to bathe
  6. Keep a flashlight at your bedside
  7. Place a nightlight between the bedroom and bathroom
  8. Place items you use most often within easy reach
  9. Do not get up too quickly after eating, sitting or lying flat
  10. If you are unsteady on your feet, use a cane or walker as needed
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