BACKGROUND: Clinical uncertainty is inherent for people with frailty and multimorbidity. Depleted physiological reserves increase vulnerability to a decline in health and adverse outcomes from a stressor event. Evidence-based tools can improve care processes and outcomes, but little is known about priorities to deliver care for older people with frailty and multimorbidity. This study aimed to explore the preferences and priorities for patients, family carers and healthcare practitioners to enhance care processes of comprehensive assessment, communication and continuity of care in managing clinical uncertainty using evidence-based tools.

METHODS: A parallel mixed method observational study in four inpatient intermediate care units (community hospitals) for patients in transition between hospital and home. We used a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to examine patient and family preferences and priorities on the attributes of enhanced services; and stakeholder consultations with practitioners to discuss and generate recommendations on using tools to augment care processes. Data analysis used logit modelling in the DCE, and framework analysis for consultation data.

RESULTS: Thirty-three patients participated in the DCE (mean age 84 years, SD 7.76). Patients preferred a service where family were contacted on admission and discharge (β 0.36, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.61), care received closer to home (β - 0.04, 95% CI - 0.06 to - 0.02) and the GP is fully informed about care (β 0.29, 95% CI 0.05-0.52). Four stakeholder consultations (n = 48 participants) generated 20 recommendations centred around three main themes: tailoring care processes to manage multiple care needs for an ageing population with frailty and multimorbidity; the importance of ongoing communication with patient and family; and clear and concise evidence-based tools to enhance communication between clinical teams and continuity of care on discharge.

CONCLUSION: Family engagement is vital to manage clinical uncertainty. Both patients and practitioners prioritise engaging the family to support person-centred care and continuity of care within and across care settings. Patients wished to maximise family involvement by enabling their support with a preference for care close to home. Evidence-based tools used across disciplines and services can provide a shared succinct language to facilitate communication and continuity of care at points of transition in care settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number553
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Early online date14 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2021


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Frailty/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Multimorbidity
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Uncertainty


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