Impact of an integrated community-based model of care for older people with complex conditions on hospital emergency presentations and admissions: a step-wedged cluster randomized trial

Mann, Jennifer, Thompson, Fintan, McDermott, Robyn, Esterman, Adrian, and Strivens, Edward (2021) Impact of an integrated community-based model of care for older people with complex conditions on hospital emergency presentations and admissions: a step-wedged cluster randomized trial. BMC Health Services Research, 21 (1). 701.

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Background: Health systems must reorient towards preventative and co-ordinated care to reduce hospital demand and achieve positive and fiscally responsible outcomes for older persons with complex needs. Integrated care models can improve outcomes by aligning primary practice with the specialist health and social services required to manage complex needs. This paper describes the impact of a community-facing program that integrates care at the primary-secondary interface on the rate of Emergency Department (ED) presentation and hospital admissions among older people with complex needs.

Methods: The Older Persons Enablement and Rehabilitation for Complex Health Conditions (OPEN ARCH) study is a multicentre randomised controlled trial with a stepped wedge cluster design. General practitioners (GPs; n = 14) in primary practice within the Cairns region are considered ‘clusters’ each comprising a mixed number of participants. 80 community-dwelling persons over 70 years of age if non-Indigenous and over 50 years of age if Indigenous were included at baseline with no new participants added during the study. Clusters were randomly assigned to one of three steps that represent the time at which they would commence the OPEN ARCH intervention, and the subsequent intervention duration (3, 6, or 9 months). Each participant was its own control. GPs and participants were not blinded. The primary outcomes were ED presentations and hospital admissions. Data were collected from Queensland Health Casemix data and analysed with multilevel mixed-effects Poisson regression modelling to estimate the effectiveness of the OPEN ARCH intervention. Data were analysed at the cluster and participant levels.

Results: Five clusters were randomised to steps 1 and 2, and 4 clusters randomised to step 3. All clusters (n = 14) completed the trial accounting for 80 participants. An effect size of 9% in service use (95% CI) was expected. The OPEN ARCH intervention was found to not make a statistically significant difference to ED presentations or admissions. However, a stabilising of ED presentations and a trend toward lower hospitalisation rates over time was observed.

Conclusions: While this study detected no statistically significant change in ED presentations or hospital admissions, a plateauing of ED presentation and admission rates is a clinically significant finding for older persons with complex needs. Multi-sectoral integrated programs of care require an adequate preparation period and sufficient duration of intervention for effectiveness to be measured.

Item ID: 69962
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1472-6963
Keywords: Complexity, Emergency department, Hospital admissions, Integration, Older person, Primary care
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2022 00:23
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