OBJECTIVE: Although decline in functional status has been recommended as a quality indicator in long-term care, studies examining its use provide no consensus on which definition of functional status outcome is the most appropriate to use for quality assessment. We examined whether different definitions of decline in functional status affect judgments of quality of care provided in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) long-term care facilities.
METHODS: Six measures of functional status outcome that are prominent in the literature were considered. The sample consisted of 15 409 individuals who resided in VA long-term care facilities at any time from 4/1/95 to 10/1/95. Activities of daily living variables were used to generate measures of functional status. Differences between residents' baseline and semi-annual assessments were considered and facility performance using the various definitions of functional status were described.
RESULTS: The percentage of residents seen as declining in functional status ranged from 7.7% to 31.5%, depending upon the definition applied. The definition of functional status also affected rankings, z-scores, and 'outlier' status for facilities.
CONCLUSION: Judgments of facility performance are sensitive to how outcome measures are defined. Careful selection of an appropriate definition of functional status outcome is needed when assessing quality in long-term care.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/arlene_ash/37/