Skip to content

A systematic review to identify and assess the effectiveness of alternatives for people over the age of 65 who are at risk of potentially avoidable hospital admission

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere016236
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Early online date1 Aug 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 31 May 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2017
DatePublished (current) - 2017



There are some older patients who are at the decision margin' of admission. This systematic review sought to explore this issue with the following objective: What admission alternatives are there for older patients and are they safe, effective and cost-effective? A secondary objective was to identify the characteristics of those older patients for whom the decision to admit to hospital may be unclear. 


Systematic review of controlled studies (April 2005-December 2016) with searches in Medline, Embase, Cinahl and CENTRAL databases. The protocol is registered at PROSPERO (CRD42015020371). Studies were assessed using Cochrane risk of bias criteria, and relevant reviews were assessed with the AMSTAR tool. The results are presented narratively and discussed. Setting Primary and secondary healthcare interface. Participants People aged over 65 years at risk of an unplanned admission. Interventions Any community-based intervention offered as an alternative to admission to an acute hospital. Primary and secondary outcomes measures Reduction in secondary care use, patient-related outcomes, safety and costs. 


Nineteen studies and seven systematic reviews were identified. These recruited patients with both specific conditions and mixed chronic and acute conditions. The interventions involved paramedic/emergency care practitioners (n=3), emergency department-based interventions (n=3), community hospitals (n=2) and hospital-at-home services (n=11). Data suggest that alternatives to admission appear safe with potential to reduce secondary care use and length of time receiving care. There is a lack of patient-related outcomes and cost data. The important features of older patients for whom the decision to admit is uncertain are: Age over 75 years, comorbidities/multi-morbidities, dementia, home situation, social support and individual coping abilities. 


This systematic review describes and assesses evidence on alternatives to acute care for older patients and shows that many of the options available are safe and appear to reduce resource use. However, cost analyses and patient preference data are lacking.

    Research areas

  • aged, emergency medical services, hospital alternative, hospitalization, systematic review

Download statistics

No data available




View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups