Emergency Department-Based Physical Function Measures for Falls in Older Adults and Outcomes: A Secondary Analysis of GAPcare

J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2024 Apr 24. doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000403. Online ahead of print.


Background and purpose: Falls are the leading reason for injury-related emergency department (ED) visits for older adults. The Geriatric Acute and Post-acute Fall Prevention Intervention (GAPcare), an in-ED intervention combining a medication therapy management session delivered by a pharmacist and a fall risk assessment and plan by a physical therapist, reduced ED revisits at 6 months among older adults presenting after a fall. Our objective was to evaluate the relationship between measures of function obtained in the ED and clinical outcomes.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of data from GAPcare, a randomized controlled trial conducted from January 2018 to October 2019 at 2 urban academic EDs. Standardized measures of function (Timed Up and Go [TUG] test, Barthel Activity of Daily Living [ADL], Activity Measure for Post Acute Care [AM-PAC] 6 clicks) were collected at the ED index visit. We performed a descriptive analysis and hypothesis testing (chi square test and analysis of variance) to assess the relationship of functional measures with outcomes (ED disposition, ED revisits for falls, and place of residence at 6 months). Emergency department disposition status refers to discharge location immediately after the ED evaluation is complete (eg, hospital admission, original residence, skilled nursing facility).

Results and discussion: Among 110 participants, 55 were randomized to the GAPcare intervention and 55 received usual care. Of those randomized to the intervention, 46 received physical therapy consultation. Median age was 81 years; participants were predominantly women (67%) and White (94%). Seventy-three (66%) were discharged to their original residence, 14 (13%) were discharged to a skilled nursing facility and 22 (20%) were admitted. There was no difference in ED disposition status by index visit Barthel ADLs (P = .371); however, TUG times were faster (P = .016), and AM-PAC 6 clicks score was higher among participants discharged to their original residence (P ≤ .001). Participants with slower TUG times at the index ED visit were more likely to reside in nursing homes by six months (P = .002), while Barthel ADL and AM-PAC 6 clicks did not differ between those residing at home and other settings.

Conclusions: Measures of function collected at the index ED visit, such as the AM-PAC 6 clicks and TUG time, may be helpful at predicting clinical outcomes for older adults presenting for a fall. Based on our study findings, we suggest a novel workflow to guide the use of these clinical measures for ED patients with falls.