The objective of this article is to describe the design of an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of systematic home visits by nurses to frail elderly primary care patients. Pilot objectives were: 1. To determine the feasibility of postal multidimensional frailty screening instruments; 2. to identify the need for home visits to elderly.
Main study: The main study concerns a randomized controlled in primary care practices (PCP) with 18 months follow-up and blinded PCPs. Frail persons aged 75 years or older and living at home but neither terminally ill nor demented from 33 PCPs were eligible. Trained community nurses (1) visit patients at home and assess the care needs with the Resident Assessment Instrument-Home Care, a multidimensional computerized geriatric assessment instrument, enabling direct identification of problem areas; (2) determine the care priorities together with the patient; (3) design and execute interventions according to protocols; (4) and visit patients at least five times during a year in order to execute and monitor the care-plan. Controls receive usual care. Outcome measures are Quality of life, and Quality Adjusted Life Years; time to nursing home admission; mortality; hospital admissions; health care utilization.
Pilot 1: Three brief postal multidimensional screening measures to identify frail health among elderly persons were tested on percentage complete item response (selected after a literature search): 1) Vulnerable Elders Screen, 2) Strawbridge's frailty screen, and 3) COOP-WONCA charts.
Pilot 2: Three nurses visited elderly frail patients as identified by PCPs in a health center of 5400 patients and used an assessment protocol to identify psychosocial and medical problems. The needs and experiences of all participants were gathered by semi-structured interviews.
The design holds several unique elements such as early identification of frail persons combined with case-management by nurses.
From two pilots we learned that of three potential postal frailty measures, the COOP-WONCA charts were completed best by elderly and that preventive home visits by nurses were positively evaluated to have potential for quality of care improvement.