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Medical day hospital care for the elderly versus alternative forms of care


Geriatric day hospitals provide multi-disciplinary rehabilitation in an outpatient setting. Concern has been expressed that evidence for effectiveness is equivocal and that day hospital care is expensive.


To assess the effects of medical day hospitals for elderly people.

Main results

Twelve studies were included involving 22 day hospitals and 2867 patients. Five studies compared day hospital with comprehensive elderly care, four compared day hospital with domiciliary care and three compared day hospital with no comprehensive elderly care.

There were no significant differences between day hospital attendance and comparison treatments for the outcomes of death, death or requiring institutional care, death or deterioration in ADL. When death or a ‘poor’ outcome at follow up was examined there was a significant difference in favour of day hospital attendance when compared to no comprehensive elderly care (odds ratio 0.73; 95% confidence interval 0.53-1.00; P. 0.05).

Dependency was measured in 11 studies using a variety of ADL measures; two described short-term improvement for the day hospital group, one reported improved outcome for the comparison group, while in the remainder there was no statistically significant difference. Using the outcome of deterioration in ADL among survivors, day hospital patients showed reduced odds of deterioration compared with those receiving no comprehensive elderly care (0.60; 0.38-0.97; P. 0.05).

When resource use was examined the day hospital group showed trends towards reductions in hospital bed use and placement of survivors in institutional care. Nine studies comparing treatment costs indicated that day hospital attendance was a more expensive option, although only two analyses took into account long-term care costs.

Authors’ conclusions

Medical day hospital care for the elderly appears to be more effective than no intervention but may have no clear advantage over other forms of comprehensive elderly medical services.