Construct validity of the electronic Veterans Affairs Frailty Index against clinician frailty assessment

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2023 Dec;71(12):3857-3864. doi: 10.1111/jgs.18540. Epub 2023 Aug 25.


Background: Electronic frailty indices (eFIs) can expand measurement of frailty in research and practice and have demonstrated predictive validity in associations with clinical outcomes. However, their construct validity is less well studied. We aimed to assess the construct validity of the VA-FI, an eFI developed for use in the U.S. Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

Methods: Veterans who underwent comprehensive geriatric assessments between January 31, 2019 and June 6, 2022 at VA Boston and had sufficient data documented for a comprehensive geriatric assessment-frailty index (CGA-FI) were included. The VA-FI, based on diagnostic and procedural codes, and the CGA-FI, based on geriatrician-measured deficits, were calculated for each patient. Geriatricians also assessed the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS), functional status (ADLs and IADLs), and 4-meter gait speed (4MGS).

Results: A total of 132 veterans were included, with median age 81.4 years (IQR 75.8-88.7). Across increasing levels of VA-FI (<0.2; 0.2-0.4; >0.4), mean CGA-FI increased (0.24; 0.30; 0.40). The VA-FI was moderately correlated with the CGA-FI (r 0.45, p < 0.001). Every 0.1-unit increase in the VA-FI was associated with an increase in the CGA-FI (linear regression beta 0.05; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.03-0.06), higher CFS category (ordinal regression OR 1.69; 95% CI 1.24-2.30), higher odds of ADL dependency (logistic regression OR 1.59; 95% CI 1.20-2.11), IADL dependency (logistic regression OR 1.68; 95% CI 1.23-2.30), and a decrease in 4MGS (linear regression beta -0.07, 95% CI -0.12 to -0.02). All models were adjusted for age and race, and associations held after further adjustment for the Charlson Comorbidity Index.

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate the construct validity of the VA-FI through its associations with clinical measures of frailty, including summary frailty measures, functional status, and objective physical performance. Our findings complement others' in showing that eFIs can capture functional and mobility domains of frailty beyond just comorbidity and may be useful to measure frailty among populations and individuals.

Keywords: construct validity; electronic frailty index; frailty; frailty index; geriatric assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Frail Elderly
  • Frailty* / diagnosis
  • Geriatric Assessment / methods
  • Humans
  • Veterans*