Palapar L, Blom JW, Wilkinson-Meyers L, et al. Preventive interventions to improve older people's health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract. 2024 Mar 27;74(741):e208-e218. doi: 10.3399/BJGP.2023.0180. Print 2024 Apr. (Systematic review)

BACKGROUND: Systematic reviews of preventive, non-disease-specific primary care trials for older people often report effects according to what is thought to be the intervention's active ingredient.

AIM: To examine the effectiveness of preventive primary care interventions for older people and to identify common components that contribute to intervention success.

DESIGN AND SETTING: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published in 22 publications from 2009 to 2019.

METHOD: A search was conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, CENTRAL, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library. Inclusion criteria were: sample mainly aged =65 years; delivered in primary care; and non-disease-specific interventions. Exclusion criteria were: non-RCTs; primarily pharmacological or psychological interventions; and where outcomes of interest were not reported. Risk of bias was assessed using the original Cochrane tool. Outcomes examined were healthcare use including admissions to hospital and aged residential care (ARC), and patient-reported outcomes including activities of daily living (ADLs) and self-rated health (SRH).

RESULTS: Many studies had a mix of patient-, provider-, and practice-focused intervention components (13 of 18 studies). Studies included in the review had low-to-moderate risk of bias. Interventions had no overall benefit to healthcare use (including admissions to hospital and ARC) but higher basic ADL scores were observed (standardised mean difference [SMD] 0.21, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.01 to 0.40) and higher odds of reporting positive SRH (odds ratio [OR] 1.17, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.37). When intervention effects were examined by components, better patient-reported outcomes were observed in studies that changed the care setting (SMD for basic ADLs 0.21, 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.40; OR for positive SRH 1.17, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.37), included educational components for health professionals (SMD for basic ADLs 0.21, 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.40; OR for positive SRH 1.27, 95% CI = 1.05 to 1.55), and provided patient education (SMD for basic ADLs 0.28, 95% CI = 0.09 to 0.48). Additionally, admissions to hospital in intervention participants were fewer by 23% in studies that changed the care setting (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0.77, 95% CI = 0.63 to 0.95) and by 26% in studies that provided patient education (IRR 0.74, 95% CI = 0.56 to 0.97).

CONCLUSION: Preventive primary care interventions are beneficial to older people's functional ability and SRH but not other outcomes. To improve primary care for older people, future programmes should consider delivering care in alternative settings, for example, home visits and phone contacts, and providing education to patients and health professionals as these may contribute to positive outcomes.

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Discipline Area Score
Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP) 6 / 7
General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US) 6 / 7
Geriatrics 5 / 7
Comments from MORE raters

Geriatrics rater

This study shows that preventative primary care interventions, including those delivered in alternative care settings (e.g. home care visits), have the potential to improve patient-reported outcome measures, but unclear whether the benefit is clinically meaningful or cost-effective as a strategy.
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