Objective: To evaluate the impact of a programme of integrated social and medical care among frail elderly people living in the community.
Design: Randomised study with 1 year follow up.
Setting: Town in northern Italy (Rovereto).
Subjects: 200 older people already receiving conventional community care services.
Intervention: Random allocation to an intervention group receiving integrated social and medical care and case management or to a control group receiving conventional care.
Main outcome measures: Admission to an institution, use and costs of health services, variations in functional status.
Results: Survival analysis showed that admission to hospital or nursing home in the intervention group occurred later and was less common than in controls (hazard ratio 0.69; 95% confidence interval 0.53 to 0.91). Health services were used to the same extent, but control subjects received more frequent home visits by general practitioners. In the intervention group the estimated financial savings were in the order of 1125 ($1800) per year of follow up. The intervention group had improved physical function (activities of daily living score improved by 5.1% v 13.0% loss in controls; P<0.001). Decline of cognitive status (measured by the short portable mental status questionnaire) was also reduced (3.8% v 9.4%; P<0.05).
Conclusion: Integrated social and medical care with case management programmes may provide a cost effective approach to reduce admission to institutions and functional decline in older people living in the community.