Prospective care of elderly patients in family practice. Is screening effective?
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate cost and benefits of screening for and treating health and lifestyle risks among community-dwelling elderly. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial. SETTING: Primary care. PARTICIPANTS: An opportunistic and prompted sample of 619 rostered elderly patients presenting for treatment who screened positive. INTERVENTIONS: One third (209) of experimental subjects had screening questionnaires placed in their charts with concerns highlighted for referrals. Two control groups received usual care. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Yearly assessments of health service use and multidimensional functional capacity. RESULTS: Overall, screening and treatment of functionally active, elderly, middle-class people had no significant beneficial effect. Almost half of the experimental sample was ineligible because of treatment noncompliance. Generally ineligible subjects were older and more severely impaired. Subjects 75 years and older with risk factors showed improvement in daily living activities, and those living alone were found to have improved mental health and social functions (11% and 22%, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Screening and treatment was ineffective in improving total functional capacity of all seniors 65 years and older. Elderly people 75 years and older, however, who were living alone or lonely did benefit from screening and treatment showing an improvement in daily activities, mental health scores, and social functions. This finding has implications for selective preventive health care spending for the elderly. A 2-year follow-up period could be too brief to detect long-term effects of early intervention with younger, middle-class seniors, especially those who are already functionally active.
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