Open Access Study protocol

Development of quality indicators for monitoring outcomes of frail elderly hospitalised in acute care health settings: Study Protocol

Caroline A Brand123, Melinda Martin-Khan4*, Olivia Wright5, Richard N Jones67, John N Morris7, Catherine M Travers4, Joannne Tropea1 and Leonard C Gray4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Health Services Research, Melbourne Health, The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

2 Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

3 Centre for Research Excellence in Patient Safety (CREPS) Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

4 Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine, The University of Queensland School of Medicine, Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia

5 Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia

6 Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

7 Institute of Ageing Research, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:281  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-281

Published: 20 October 2011



Frail older people admitted to acute care hospitals are at risk of a range of adverse outcomes, including geriatric syndromes, although targeted care strategies can improve health outcomes for these patients. It is therefore important to assess inter-hospital variation in performance in order to plan and resource improvement programs.

Clinical quality outcome indicators provide a mechanism for identifying variation in performance over time and between hospitals, however to date there has been no routine use of such indicators in acute care settings.

A barrier to using quality indicators is lack of access to routinely collected clinical data. The interRAI Acute Care (AC) assessment system supports comprehensive geriatric assessment of older people within routine daily practice in hospital and includes process and outcome data pertaining to geriatric syndromes.

This paper reports the study protocol for the development of aged care quality indicators for acute care hospitals.


The study will be conducted in three phases:

1. Development of a preliminary inclusive set of quality indicators set based on a literature review and expert panel consultation,

2. A prospective field study including recruitment of 480 patients aged 70 years or older across 9 Australian hospitals. Each patient will be assessed on admission and discharge using the interRAI AC, and will undergo daily monitoring to observe outcomes. Medical records will be independently audited, and

3. Analysis and compilation of a definitive quality indicator set, including two anonymous voting rounds for quality indicator inclusion by the expert panel.


The approach to quality indicators proposed in this protocol has four distinct advantages over previous efforts: the quality indicators focus on outcomes; they can be collected as part of a routinely applied clinical information and decision support system; the clinical data will be robust and will contribute to better understanding variations in hospital care of older patients; The quality indicators will have international relevance as they will be built on the interRAI assessment instrument, an internationally recognised clinical system.