Selecting Target Conditions for Quality of Care Improvement in Vulnerable Older Adults

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 48, no. 4, Apr. 2000, p. 363-369

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Elizabeth M. Sloss, David Solomon, Paul G. Shekelle, Roy Young, Debra Saliba, Catherine MacLean, Laurence Rubenstein, John Schnelle, Caren Kamberg, Neil S. Wenger

OBJECTIVE: To identify a set of geriatric conditions as optimal targets for quality improvement to be used in a quality measurement system for vulnerable older adults. DESIGN: Discussion and two rounds of ranking of conditions by a panel of geriatric clinical experts informed by literature reviews. METHODS: A list of 78 conditions common among vulnerable older people was reduced to 35 on the basis of their (1) prevalence, (2) impact on health and quality of life, (3) effectiveness of interventions in improving mortality and quality of life, (4) disparity in the quality of care across providers and geographic areas, and (5) feasibility of obtaining the data needed to test compliance with quality indicators. A panel of 12 experts in geriatric care discussed and then ranked the 35 conditions on the basis of the same five criteria. The authors then selected 21 conditions, based on panelists' iterative rankings. Using available national data, they compiled information about prevalence of the selected conditions for community-dwelling older people and older nursing home residents and estimated the proportion of inpatient and outpatient care attributable to the selected conditions. RESULTS: The 21 conditions selected as targets for quality improvement among vulnerable older adults include (in rank order): pharmacologic management; depression; dementia; heart failure; stroke (and atrial fibrillation); hospitalization and surgery; falls and mobility disorders; diabetes mellitus; end-of-life care; ischemic heart disease; hypertension; pressure ulcers; osteoporosis; urinary incontinence; pain management; preventive services; hearing impairment; pneumonia and influenza; vision impairment; malnutrition; and osteoarthritis. The selected conditions had mean rank scores from 1.2 to 3.8, and those excluded from 4.6 to 6.9, on a scale from 1 (highest ranking) to 7 (lowest ranking). Prevalence of the selected conditions ranges from 10 to 50% among community-dwelling older adults and from 25 to 80% in nursing home residents for the six most common selected conditions. The 21 target conditions account for at least 43% of all acute hospital discharges and 33% of physician office visits among persons 65 years of age and older. Actual figures must be higher because several of the selected conditions (e.g., end-of-life care) are not recorded as diagnoses. CONCLUSIONS: Twenty-one conditions were selected as targets for quality improvement in vulnerable older people for use in a quality measurement system. The 21 geriatric conditions selected are highly prevalent in this group and likely account for more than half of the care provided to this group in hospital and ambulatory settings.

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