Open Access Open Badges Research article

Educating novice practitioners to detect elder financial abuse: a randomised controlled trial

Priscilla Harries1*, Miranda Davies1, Ken Gilhooly1, Mary Gilhooly1 and Christopher Tomlinson2

Author Affiliations

1 Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK

2 Imperial College London, London, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:21  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-21

Published: 1 February 2014



Health and social care professionals are well positioned to identify and intervene in cases of elder financial abuse. An evidence-based educational intervention was developed to advance practitioners’ decision-making in this domain. The objective was to test the effectiveness of a decision-training educational intervention on novices’ ability to detect elder financial abuse. The research was funded by an E.S.R.C. grant reference RES-189-25-0334.


A parallel-group, randomised controlled trial was conducted using a judgement analysis approach. Each participant used the World Wide Web to judge case sets at pre-test and post-test. The intervention group was provided with training after pre-test testing, whereas the control group were purely given instructions to continue with the task. 154 pre-registration health and social care practitioners were randomly allocated to intervention (n78) or control (n76). The intervention comprised of written and graphical descriptions of an expert consensus standard explaining how case information should be used to identify elder financial abuse. Participants’ ratings of certainty of abuse occurring (detection) were correlated with the experts’ ratings of the same cases at both stages of testing.


At pre-test, no differences were found between control and intervention on rating capacity. Comparison of mean scores for the control and intervention group at pre-test compared to immediate post-test, showed a statistically significant result. The intervention was shown to have had a positive moderate effect; at immediate post-test, the intervention group’s ratings had become more similar to those of the experts, whereas the control’s capacity did not improve. The results of this study indicate that the decision-training intervention had a positive effect on detection ability.


This freely available, web-based decision-training aid is an effective evidence-based educational resource. Health and social care professionals can use the resource to enhance their ability to detect elder financial abuse. It has been embedded in a web resource at webcite.