Best place of care for older people after acute and during subacute illness: a systematic review

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2000 Jul;5(3):176-89. doi: 10.1177/135581960000500309.


Objectives: To assess the evaluative research literature on the costs, quality and effectiveness of different locations of care for older patients.

Methods: A systematic review of evaluative research from 1988 using CRD4 guidelines. Twenty-five databases were searched, using processes developed specially for this review. Library OPACS, the Internet and research registers were also searched for relevant material. The final stage of the review was confined to randomised and pseudorandomised trials. Studies were selected for review by pairs of researchers working independently who then met to reach a decision. Analysis was predominantly descriptive; simple pooled odds ratios were used to explore some outcomes.

Results: Eighty-four papers from 45 trials were included. Firm conclusions were difficult to draw, except in relation to some outcomes for stroke units, early discharge schemes and geriatric assessment units. Few trials in this area have adequately addressed issues of patients' quality of life and costs to health services, social care providers, patients and their families.

Conclusions: Despite considerable recent development of different forms of care for older patients, evidence about effectiveness and costs is weak. However, evidence is also weak for longer-standing care models. A substantial service evaluation agenda emerges from this review. This study also raises questions about the usefulness of systematic review techniques in the area of service delivery and organisation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / rehabilitation*
  • Aftercare / standards*
  • Aged
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • England
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Services for the Aged / standards*
  • Hospital Units
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care
  • State Medicine
  • Subacute Care / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome*