Rapid emergency department intervention for older people reduces risk of functional decline: results of a multicenter randomized trial

J McCusker, J Verdon, P Tousignant, L P de Courval, N Dendukuri, E Belzile
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2001, 49 (10): 1272-81

OBJECTIVES: To determine the effectiveness of a two-stage (screening and nursing assessment) intervention for older patients in the emergency department (ED) who are at increased risk of functional decline and other adverse outcomes.

DESIGN: Controlled trial, randomized by day of ED visit, with follow-up at 1 and 4 months.

SETTING: Four university-affiliated hospitals in Montreal.

PARTICIPANTS: Patients age 65 and older expected to be released from the ED to the community with a score of 2 or more on the Identification of Seniors At Risk (ISAR) screening tool and their primary family caregivers. One hundred seventy-eight were randomized to the intervention, 210 to usual care.

INTERVENTION: The intervention consisted of disclosure of results of the ISAR screen, a brief standardized nursing assessment in the ED, notification of the primary care physician and home care providers, and other referrals as needed. The control group received usual care, without disclosure of the screening result.

MEASUREMENTS: Patient outcomes assessed at 4 months after enrollment included functional decline (increased dependence on the Older American Resources and Services activities of daily living scale or death) and depressive symptoms (as assessed by the short Geriatric Depression Scale). Caregiver outcomes, also assessed at baseline and 4 months, included the physical and mental summary scales of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36. Patient and caregiver satisfaction with care were assessed 1 month after enrollment.

RESULTS: The intervention increased the rate of referral to the primary care physician and to home care services. The intervention was associated with a significantly reduced rate of functional decline at 4 months, in both unadjusted (odds ratio (OR) = 0.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.36-0.99) and adjusted (OR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.31-0.91) analyses. There was no intervention effect on patient depressive symptoms, caregiver outcomes, or satisfaction with care.

CONCLUSION: A two-stage ED intervention, consisting of screening with the ISAR tool followed by a brief, standardized nursing assessment and referral to primary and home care services, significantly reduced the rate of subsequent functional decline.

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