Objectives: To assess the feasibility of a brief comprehensive case-finding program for detecting functional, cognitive, and social impairments among elderly ED patients and to estimate the prevalence of unknown, undetected, or untreated impairments elderly patients may have.
Methods: A multicenter prospective study conducted at five private and public hospital EDs in five different communities across the country. Patients aged 60 years and older released to their homes during 52 randomly selected evening and weekend shifts between February 1 and April 30, 1993, were eligible for the case-finding program. They were evaluated by medical students who received special training (instructional videotape, supervised examinations, and conference calls) in the administration of a standardized 17-item protocol that included an interview and simple tests of function. The patients' physicians were notified of the screening results and were asked to return a one-month follow-up questionnaire. The physicians answered whether the presumed problem had been confirmed and whether a treatment plan for a new problem had been developed.
Results: Patient acceptance of the case-finding program was good; 252 of 338 eligible patients (75%) agreed to participate, and 281 conditions were detected for 242 screened patients (96%). The most frequently reported problems were with: performing the activities of daily living (79%); vision (55%); lack of influenza vaccination (54%); home environment (49%); mental status (46%); general health (41%); falls (40%); and depression (36%). The physicians returned questionnaires for 153 patients (63%); 76 patients (50%) were evaluated at follow-up visits, during which 47 newly identified problems (62%) were confirmed and treatment plans were developed for 25 problems (53%) among 21 patients. A mean time of 17.7 ± 10.2 minutes was required to complete the screen.
Conclusions: A brief comprehensive case-finding program for functional, cognitive, and social impairment among elderly ED patients is feasible. The screening uncovered a significant amount of morbidity among older patients visiting EDs.