Objective: To review published randomised controlled trials of health assessments for older people; consider the effects of assessments in maintaining health and quality of life for older people; and identify those factors associated with more successful health assessment programs.
Methods: A systematic literature search and methodological review of published studies of health assessments for people aged 65 years and over, living in the community.
Results: Twenty-one trials were identified. They were widely heterogenous in terms of methodological quality, assessment content and outcome variables. While the studies' results are inconsistent, the majority of the more methodologically sound studies report improvements in health. The studies reporting positive health outcomes were not specifically targeted to particular groups at high need, but were applied to all people in the source population who had reached a set age, usually 75 plus. In the majority of studies reviewed, the assessments were conducted by non-medical personnel (nurse, lay interviewer/volunteer or office staff).
Conclusions: Health assessments have been associated with improved health outcomes for older people. An evidence base for specific components to be included in the assessments is yet to be derived.
Implications: In November 1999, new Medicare items to provide for health assessments for persons in Australia aged 75 years and over were introduced. The acceptability, adoption and effectiveness of these items needs careful monitoring.