Objective: To define a set of screening criteria that identifies elders who are at high risk for repeated hospital admission in the future.
Design: Longitudinal cohort study. Logistic regression analysis of data from half of the subjects was used to identify risk factors for repeated hospital admission. The ability of these risk factors to identify elders who are at high risk for repeated hospitalization in the future was then tested using data from the other half of the subjects.
Setting: United States.
Participants: A subsample (n = 5876) of a multistage probability sample of all non-institutionalized U.S. civilians who were 70 years or older in 1984.
Measurements: At baseline (1984), elderly subjects were asked about their demographic, socioeconomic, medical, and functional characteristics and about their recent use of health services. Their subsequent hospital admissions and mortality were then monitored through the records of the Medicare program and the National Death Index (1985-88).
Results: Among the subjects in the first half of the sample, eight factors emerged as risk factors for repeated admission: older age, male sex, poor self-rated general health, availability of an informal caregiver, having ever had coronary artery disease, and having had, during the previous year, a hospital admission, more than six doctor visits, or diabetes. Based on the presence or absence of these factors in 1984, 7.2% of the subjects in the second half of the sample were estimated to have a high probability of repeated admission (Pra > or = 0.5) during 1985-1988. In comparison with subjects estimated to have a low risk (Pra < 0.5), this high-risk group's actual experiences during 1985-1988 included a higher cumulative incidence of repeated admission (41.8% vs 26.2%, P < 0.0001), a higher cumulative rate of mortality (44.2% vs 19.0%, P < 0.0001), more hospital days per person-year survived (5.2 vs 2.6), and higher hospital charges per person-year survived ($3731 vs $1841).
Conclusion: Eight easily ascertained risk factors affect elders' probability of being hospitalized repeatedly within four years. In the future, brief surveys about the presence of these factors could be used to estimate elders' risk of future hospitalization and, thereby, to identify some of those who may derive the greatest benefit from interventions designed to avert the need for hospitalization.