In older age, reduction in physical function can lead to loss of independence, the need for hospital and long-term nursing or residential home care, and premature death. Home-visiting programmes for older people, carried out by nurses and other health-care professionals (e.g. occupational therapists and physiotherapists), aim to positively affect health and functional status, and may promote independent functioning of older people.
The main research question addressed by this assessment is 'What is the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of home-based, nurse-led health promotion intervention for older people in the UK?'
A comprehensive literature search was undertaken across 12 different databases and research registries from the year 2001 onwards (including MEDLINE, MEDLINE in Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, NHS Health Economic Evaluation Database, Health Technology Assessment Database, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature). Published systematic reviews were also hand searched to identify other trials previously published.
Potentially relevant studies were sifted by one reviewer, and inclusion decisions were agreed among the broader research team. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. The results of included studies were synthesised using narrative and statistical methods. A separate systematic search was undertaken to identify existing health economic analyses of home-based, nurse-led health promotion programmes. Included studies were critically appraised using a published checklist. Owing to resource constraints, a de novo health economic model was not developed.
Eleven studies were included in the systematic review of clinical effectiveness. There was considerable heterogeneity among the studies with respect to the nature of the intervention, the nurses delivering the programmes and the populations in which the interventions were assessed. Overall, the quality of the included studies was good: all but one of the included studies were judged to be at medium or low risk of bias. Meta-analysis of eight studies suggested a statistically significant mortality benefit for the home-based health promotion groups, whereas a meta-analysis of four studies suggested non-significant benefits in terms of fewer falls in the intervention groups than in the control groups. Positive outcomes for home-based, nurse-led health promotion interventions were also reported within individual studies across several other outcomes. Only three economic studies met the criteria for inclusion in the review of cost-effectiveness. This evidence base consists of one non-randomised cost minimisation analysis and two economic evaluations undertaken alongside randomised controlled trials. Two of these studies involved an intervention targeted specifically at patients with a known underlying incurable disease, whereas the third study examined the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of early discharge in patients with a range of conditions, including fractures, neurological conditions and cardiorespiratory conditions. Each study indicated some likelihood that home-based, nurse-led health promotion may offer cost savings to the NHS and associated sectors, such as social services. However, one study did not report any comparison of health outcomes and instead simply assumed equivalence between the intervention and comparator groups, whereas the other two studies suggested at best a negligible incremental benefit in terms of preference-based health-related quality-of-life measures.
The evidence base for clinical effectiveness is subject to considerable heterogeneity. The UK economic evidence base is limited to three studies.
On the basis of the evidence included in this systematic review, home-based, nurse-led health promotion may offer clinical benefits across a number of important health dimensions. However, it is generally unclear from the available studies which components of this type of complex intervention contribute towards individual aspects of benefit for older people. Given the limitations of the current evidence base, it remains unclear whether or not home-based health promotion interventions offer good value for money for the NHS and associated sectors. Given the considerable uncertainties in the available evidence base, it is difficult to isolate the key areas in which future research would be valuable or the exact study design required. Although this report does not identify specific studies that should be undertaken, it does set out a number of key considerations for the design of future research in this area.
PROSPERO number: CRD42012002133.