Short-stay unit hospitalisation vs. standard care outcomes in older internal medicine patients-a randomised clinical trial

Age Ageing. 2018 Nov 1;47(6):810-817. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afy090.


Background: the effect of hospitalisation in emergency department-based short-stay units (SSUs) has not been studied in older patients. We compared SSU hospitalisation with standard care at an Internal Medicine Department (IMD) in acutely admitted older internal medicine patients.

Methods: pragmatic randomised clinical trial. We randomly assigned patients aged 75 years or older, acutely admitted for an internal medicine disease and assessed to be suitable for SSU hospitalisation to SSU hospitalisation or IMD hospitalisation. SSU hospitalisation was provided by a pragmatic 'fast-track' principle. The primary outcome was 90-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included adverse events, change in Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) score within 90 days from admission, in-hospital length of stay and unplanned readmissions within 30 days after discharge.

Results: between January 2015 and October 2016, 430 participants were randomised (median age 84 years in both groups). Ninety-day mortality was 22(11%) in the SSU group and 32(15%) in the IMD group (odds ratio (OR) 0.66; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.37-1.18; P = 0.16). When comparing the SSU group to the IMD group, 16(8%) vs. 45(21%) experienced at least one adverse event (OR 0.31; 95% CI 0.17-0.56; P < 0.001); 6(3%) vs. 35(20%) experienced a reduction in IADL score within 90 days from admission (P < 0.001); median in-hospital length of stay was 73 h [interquartile range, IQR 36-147] vs. 100 h [IQR 47-169], (P < 0.001), and 26(13%) vs. 58(29%) were readmitted (OR 0.37; 95% CI 0.22-0.61; P < 0.001).

Conclusions: mortality at 90 days after admission was not significantly lower in the SSU group, but SSU hospitalisation was associated with a lower risk of adverse events, less functional decline, fewer readmissions and shorter hospital stay.

Trial registration: NCT02395718.

Publication types

  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Hospital Departments*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine*
  • Length of Stay*
  • Male
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Readmission
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors

Associated data