Background: Although many studies describe benefits from the comprehensive assessment of elderly patients by an interdisciplinary team (comprehensive geriatric assessment), the most supportive evidence for the process has come from programs that rely on specialized inpatient units and long hospital stays. We examined whether an inpatient geriatric consultation service might also be beneficial in a trial involving four medical centers of a group-practice health maintenance organization (HMO).
Methods: We conducted a randomized clinical trial with 2353 hospitalized patients 65 years of age or older in whom at least 1 of 13 screening criteria were present: stroke, immobility, impairment in any basic activity of daily living, malnutrition, incontinence, confusion or dementia, prolonged bed rest, recent falls, depression, social or family problems, an unplanned readmission to the hospital within three months of a previous hospital stay, a new fracture, and age of 80 years or older. Of the 1337 patients assigned to the experimental group, 1261 (94 percent) received a comprehensive geriatric assessment in the form of a consultation, with limited follow-up; the 1016 patients assigned to the control group received usual care. The functional and health status of the patients was measured at base line and 3 and 12 months later; survival was assessed at 12 months. Subgroups of patients who might be presumed to benefit from comprehensive assessment were also studied.
Results: The survival rate at 12 months was 74 percent in the experimental group and 75 percent in the control group. At base line, 3 months, and 12 months the scores of the two groups on measures of functional and health status were similar. The analysis of 16 subgroups did not identify any with either clearly improved functional status or improved survival.
Conclusions: In this HMO, comprehensive geriatric assessment by a consultation team, with limited follow-up, did not improve the health or survival of hospitalized patients selected on the basis of screening criteria.