Researchers offer new approach to detect frailty in older adults

A team of researchers led by the Kolling’s Professor Sarah Hilmer has developed a valuable resource to identify frail and vulnerable people in hospital, in an important step towards optimising their care.

Frail older adults have a higher risk of experiencing adverse outcomes in hospital such as falls, confusion and malnutrition, and many have longer hospital stays.

Professor Hilmer said more than 26,000 people in Northern Sydney are frail, representing a quarter of the population over 70.

“Fortunately, frailty can be managed, and in some cases reversed if detected early and provided with the appropriate care,” she said.

The frailty tool developed by our team uses existing data from hospital electronic medical records, and does not require clinical staff to fill-out additional forms. Steps are now being taken to automate the process within the medical records system.

“The tool can be used to measure the prevalence of frailty amongst patients in our hospitals, and this will help ensure that models of care meet their needs.

“The patient’s frailty could also be communicated to their general practitioner on discharge to guide their ongoing care in the community.

“This important new resource will help with early recognition and appropriate management, leading to better health outcomes and a better quality of life when people go home.”

Sarita Lo, the research pharmacist who helped develop the tool said it will help ensure we have adequate support to care for frail older people in hospital, whether it be geriatric medicine expertise, specialist nursing, physiotherapy, a medication review or nutrition advice.