OBJECTIVES: To model the incremental cost-utility of seven interventions reported as effective for preventing falls in older adults.
DESIGN: Mathematical epidemiological model populated by data based on direct clinical experience and a critical review of the literature.
SETTING: Model represents population level interventions.
PARTICIPANTS: No human subjects were involved in the study.
MEASUREMENS: The last Cochrane database review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials categorized effective fall-prevention interventions into seven groups: medical management (withdrawal) of psychotropics, group tai chi, vitamin D supplementation, muscle and balance exercises, home modifications, multifactorial individualized programs for all elderly people, and multifactorial individualized treatments for high-risk frail elderly people. Fall-related hip fracture incidence was obtained from the literature. Salary figures for health professionals were based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Using an integrated healthcare system perspective, healthcare costs were estimated based on practice and studies on falls in older adults. Base case incremental cost utility ratios were calculated, and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted.
RESULTS: Medical management of psychotropics and group tai chi were the least-costly, most-effective options, but they were also the least studied. Excluding these interventions, the least-expensive, most-effective options are vitamin D supplementation and home modifications. Vitamin D supplementation costs less than home modifications, but home modifications cost only $14,794/quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained more than vitamin D. In probabilistic sensitivity analyses excluding management of psychotropics and tai chi, home modification is most likely to have the highest economic benefit when QALYs are valued at $50,000 or $100,000.
CONCLUSION: Of single interventions studied, management of psychotropics and tai chi reduces costs the most. Of more-studied interventions, home modifications provide the best value. These results must be interpreted in the context of the multifactorial nature of falls.