Objectives: Determine the effect of fecal incontinence (FI) on healthcare providers' decisions to refer patients for nursing home (NH) placement.
Setting: Questionnaires were e-mailed to participants' homes or offices. Participants could also volunteer at the 2008 American Geriatric Society annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Participants: Two thousand randomly selected physician members and all 181 nurse practitioner members of the American Geriatrics Society were surveyed.
Measurements: The survey presented a clinical scenario of a 70-year-old woman ready for discharge from a hospital and asked about the likelihood of making a NH referral if the patient had no incontinence, urinary incontinence (UI) alone, or FI. Subsequent questions modified the clinical situation to include other conditions that might affect the decision to refer. A second survey of respondents to Survey 1 addressed possible moderators of the decision to refer (e.g., family caregiver presence, diarrhea or constipation, other physical or psychiatric limitations). Significance of differences in the relative risk (RR) for NH referral was tested using the chi-square test.
Results: Seven hundred sixteen members (24.7% response rate) completed the first survey, and 686 of the 716 (96%) completed the second. FI increased the likelihood of NH referral (RR=4.71, P<.001) more than UI did (RR=1.90, P<.001). Mobility restrictions, cognitive decline, and multiple chronic illnesses increased the likelihood of NH referral more than FI alone (P<.001 for each), but in all scenarios, adding FI further increased the likelihood of referral (P<.001). Having family caregivers willing to help with toileting attenuated the likelihood of referral.
Conclusion: FI increases the probability that geriatricians will refer to a NH. More-aggressive outpatient treatment of FI might delay or prevent NH referral, improve quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs.