The increase in healthcare costs associated with frailty in older people discharged to a post-acute transition care program

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Abstract

Background: older people are high users of healthcare resources. The frailty index can predict negative health outcomes; however, the amount of extra resources required has not been quantified.

Objective: to quantify the impact of frailty on healthcare expenditure and resource utilisation in a patient cohort who entered a community-based post-acute program and compare this to a cohort entering residential care.

Methods: the interRAI home care assessment was used to construct a frailty index in three frailty levels. Costs and resource use were collected alongside a prospective observational cohort study of patients. A generalized linear model was constructed to estimate the additional cost of frailty and the cost of alternative residential care for those with high frailty.

Results: participants (n = 272) had an average age of 79, frailty levels were low in 20%, intermediate in 50% and high in 30% of the cohort. Having an intermediate or high level of frailty increased the likelihood of re-hospitalisation and was associated with 22 and 43% higher healthcare costs over 6 months compared with low frailty. It was less costly to remain living at home than enter residential care unless >62% of subsequent hospitalisations in 6 months could be prevented.

Conclusions: the frailty index can potentially be used as a tool to estimate the increase in healthcare resources required for different levels of frailty. This information may be useful for quantifying the amount to invest in programs to reduce frailty in the community.

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