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Hospital-based rehabilitative care versus outpatient services: effect on functioning and health status.

Evans RL, Connis RT, Haselkorn JK. Hospital-based rehabilitative care versus outpatient services: effect on functioning and health status. Disability and rehabilitation. 1998 Aug 1; 20(8):298-307.

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PURPOSE: The goal of this clinical trial was to examine the long-term impact of rehabilitative care on the health status of patients diagnosed with a disabling disorder. METHOD: Study patients consisted of first-time hospitalizations from diagnostic groups commonly admitted for inpatient rehabilitation, including nervous, circulatory, and musculoskeletal disorders or injury. Patients were randomly assigned to inpatient rehabilitation (n = 43) or to outpatient follow-up (n = 42) in which the usual medical services were provided but no scheduled rehabilitative therapies were offered. Specific objectives of the study were to determine the effects of impatient rehabilitation on: (1) functional ability, (2) health and mental health status, (3) personal adjustment, and (4) family function. Cost and use of health-care resources were descriptively assessed. RESULTS: Analysis of covariance found no significant treatment effects, either at 6 months or at 1 year, for any of the variables under study. In addition, there were no differences between groups in their use of nursing homes, length of hospital stay, mortality, or in the number of hospital readmissions or clinic visits during the first year after hospital discharge. Use of rehabilitation services and cost of care was significantly higher than outpatient services. The findings were consistent with previous studies for most outcomes, with the major exception being functional improvements. Contrary to earlier studies, rehabilitation was not found to effectively produce lasting functional outcomes. However, study conditions may not have fully corresponded to those of previous studies, and further research is needed. The patient sample was representative of a full inpatient service and therefore more heterogeneous than samples reported in prior studies, but the small sample size (due to reductions in the number of admitted patients to the rehabilitation unit during the course of the study) precluded subgroup analysis of diagnostic groupings. CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that hospital-based rehabilitative care does not have lasting benefits, and that alternative care or supportive follow-up by a subacute-care facility may be needed to assist patients in maintaining functional gains and health benefits.

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