Is Telephone Screening Feasible?

Accuracy and Cost-Effectiveness of Identifying People Medically Eligible for Home- and Community-Based Services.

Published in: Gerontologist, v. 44, no. 5, Oct. 2004, p. 680-688

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2003

by Brant E. Fries, Mary James, Susan S. Hammer, Lisa R. Shugarman, John N. Morris

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PURPOSE: To determine the accuracy of a telephone-screening system to identify persons eligible for home- and community-based long-term care. DESIGN AND METHODS: Data from Michigan telephone screens were compared to data from in-person assessments using the Minimum Data Set for Home Care (MDS-HC). Weighted kappa statistics measured the level of agreement between the two assessments. RESULTS: Overall, recommendations based on the telephone screen produced a marginal match compared to recommendations based on in-person assessment. False positives (individuals scoring as more impaired on the telephone screen than in person) occurred in 27% of all cases, while false negatives (individuals scoring as less impaired on the telephone screen) only occurred among 6% of the callers. Neither individual screen questions, source of information, location of the individual, timing between screen and assessment, nor temporal changes accounted for mismatches. Telephone screens resulted in an 11% savings over the cost of providing in-person assessments to all program seekers. IMPLICATIONS: The telephone screen has utility as a broad targeting mechanism that allows agencies to avoid costly in-person assessments for all program seekers. Evidence does not support use of the telephone screen alone to determine either medical eligibility or a specific level of care.

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