Vial of LIFE

Assisted living community joins coalition seeking better health care transitions.

The last thing anyone who has visited a hospital for medical care wants to do is return to the hospital soon after their discharge for further care. Far too often, though, that is exactly what happens.
Across Florida last year, four out of ten people who visited an emergency room returned to the hospital within a week of their visit, according to statistics for Medicare beneficiaries compiled by the Health Services Advisory Group.
“That’s a big number, and that’s just from hospitals,” says Heidi Kuchenbacker, executive director at Hibiscus Court of Melbourne Assisted Living and Memory Care Community. “That’s a scary number.”

Brevard Community Health Care Coalition Steering Committee members are from left: Julie Scott, Heidi Kuchenbacker, Bridget Brown.

So scary that Heidi has joined the Brevard Community Health Care Coalition, whose aim is to greatly reduce hospital readmissions in Brevard County, where 2,822 of the 16,046 patients admitted to the hospital last year returned within 30 days and two out of five people were readmitted within the first week.
“Most of those readmissions were seniors,” Heidi explains. “The coalition’s mission is to improve the coordination of health care during transitions between health care settings and the home.”
To achieve its goal, the coalition is working to expand Brevard’s Vial of LIFE program. LIFE is an acronym that stands for Lifesaving Information For Emergencies and refers to a program adopted several years ago by Brevard County Fire Rescue to help seniors coordinate vital medical information that can be located easily during emergency situations.
“Let’s say, for example, someone has fainted at home and 911 has been called,” Heidi describes. “The paramedics arrive, and the person is taken to the hospital, but they don’t have a list of current medications or a loved one has forgotten it.
“Now, the hospital does the best it can. It fixes the immediate problem and sends the patient home with follow-up instructions. But far too often, those instructions get lost or they don’t make sense to the patient or the patient doesn’t read them.
“That breakdown in communication is one of the big reasons readmissions are so high. What Vial of LIFE does is give seniors a chance to record all their pertinent medical information and store it in a place where it can easily be found.”
The vial itself is a small, plastic container that has inside of it a form that includes a detailed list of its owner’s medical conditions, medications and emergency contacts. The vial also has two green stickers the size of a quarter on the outside.
“One of the stickers goes on the door of the person’s house or apartment,” Heidi says. “That lets a paramedic know that this person has a Vial of Life. The other sticker goes on the refrigerator door because that’s where the Vial of Life is stored.
“It’s actually stored in the freezer. That’s where the Brevard County Fire Rescue members have been trained to find it, and when they do, they can get the information they need or information they can pass on to the doctor, so the person can be treated properly.”
Heidi says the key factor for success is getting the information sheet within the vial filled out. Many seniors find it hard to write, others may not understand the need for vital information and some lack the ability to follow through and complete the form themselves. The coalition’s goal is to utilize the vast number of coalition professionals to assist seniors to complete and store potentially life-saving information.
Beginning in April, members of the coalition will be hosting events throughout the county and handing out vials and aiding seniors in completing the form that goes inside the vial.
The events will be held at the Palm Bay Senior Center in Palm Bay on April 23 from 10 am to 12 pm; the Wickham Park Senior Center in Melbourne on April 4 and 9 from 10am to 12 pm; and at the Martin Andersen Senior Center in Rockledge on April 26 from 9 am to 2 pm. For more information, call Heidi at (321) 951-1050.

Print This Article