Hackensack Meridian Health, Part of Select Parkinson’s Foundation Study Group, Implementing Changes to Better Care for Patients   

Hackensack Meridian Health, Part of Select Parkinson’s Foundation Study Group, Implementing Changes to Better Care for Patients

February 22, 2024

NJ’s largest health network is one of three health systems to help define better care for Parkinson’s disease - and most of the improvements are already here 

Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health network, is one of just three health systems nationwide to work with the Parkinson’s Foundation in determining new care recommendations for patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), based in part on what’s already been implemented throughout the network with the guidance of experts at the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute. 

The resulting report, “Parkinson’s Foundation Hospital Care Recommendations,” was released to bridge major gaps common in American health care for Parkinson’s patients, including medication management through system-level changes in clinical care, management, culture, technology, education, and policy.

Existing Hackensack Meridian Health programs are at the forefront of these changes, and the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute has prioritized the implementation of these programs across all the hospitals throughout the network. 

The other health systems consulted on the project besides Hackensack Meridian Health are Henry Ford Health, University of Florida Health, along with consulting firm Manatt Health.

“We are glad to be part of this much-needed conversation,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that requires specialized care. We are at the forefront of treating it - and in so doing, we’re helping to set a new standard of care. Our clinical workers are always doing what’s best for patients - and this is why we are helping to guide a new way of doing things.”

“We are in good company, and we are glad to be part of such a necessary re-evaluation of national care standards,” said Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, Hackensack Meridian Health’s president of Academics, Research and Innovation, founding chair of the Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute, and also associate dean of Clinical Integration and professor and chair emeritus of Urology at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.

The report’s new recommendations are expected to facilitate improved care for the hundreds of thousands of people with Parkinson’s who are hospitalized in the U.S. each year and are at increased risk of preventable harm, according to the Foundation. Included among these suggested changes: that all Parkinson’s medications are ordered in a custom fashion, according to patients’ at-home regimen; all Parkinson’s medications are administered within 15 minutes or patients’ at-home regimen, without exception; eliminating potentially harmful medication events, particularly those of dopamine-blocking medication, agents for pain, and sedatives; mobilizing all people with Parkinson’s three times a day, if clinically appropriate and under supervision; and screening with dysphagia of all people with Parkinson’s within 24 hours, including measures to minimize the risk of aspiration pneumonia, if needed.

“These recommendations are the culmination of our long commitment to improving hospital safety as well as the starting point for the next phase of our leadership in this space,” said John L. Lehr, president and chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “Following these recommendations will make life better for people with Parkinson’s.”

Many of these recommendations are already happening at Hackensack Meridian Health - and further implementation across our network is underway. 

“We believe that everyone fighting the battle of Parkinson's  Disease deserves the highest quality of care throughout their care journey,” said Hooman Azmi, M.D., director of the Division of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery at the Neuroscience Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center, and associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.“Through the support of the Parkinson's Foundation, we are collaborating with our clinical leaders across our network to expand a best-practice protocol that focuses on timely patient medication management to avoid patient complications for Parkinson’s  patients in the emergency department or admitted to a hospital within the HMH network.”

Examples of some of the protocols Parkinson’s patients will experience include:

  • Development of flags that alert any provider to the diagnosis of PD. 
  • Customized time-based carbidopa/levodopa medication schedule
  • A nursing PD care plan was developed to supplement and support educational efforts to reduce risk for hospitalized patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

“We want all our patients, including those with Parkinson’s disease, to feel confident when they walk into one of our emergency departments or are admitted to one of our hospitals,” said Dana Dolce, APN, manager of the neuromodulation program at HMH. “Our providers caring for patients understand the complexity of Parkinson's Disease, and this new paradigm will make that the case throughout the country.” 

About the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute
The Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute, dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients with neurological disorders across the state of New Jersey and beyond. The Institute is comprised of the comprehensive neurological staff at Hackensack University Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, and JFK University Medical Center with a focus on conditions like brain and spine tumors, Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and other movement disorders, stroke, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and neuromuscular diseases like multiple sclerosis. 

The three Neuroscience Institutes have earned national recognition from US News & World Report for Stroke Care, and Hackensack University Medical Center is ranked No. 22 in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. Each academic medical center has earned the Comprehensive Stroke Center designation from the Joint Commission, and the Institute includes Centers of Excellence in ALS, Memory Loss and Brain Health, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, and Cranial Surgery. The Institute has earned additional national recognitions for excellence from Healthgrades, the Joint Commission, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. 

About Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute (HMHRI)
HMHRI leads and organizes a connected ecosystem bringing together clinicians, scientists, and educators to respond to the health problems of our time, in real-time. HMHRI is dedicated to accelerating discovery, innovation, and translation of scientific breakthroughs that address unmet clinical needs.

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