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Implementing Frailty Measures in the Canadian Healthcare System


Canadian healthcare is changing to include individuals living with frailty, but frailty must be better operationalized and better framed by sound data standards and policy. Frailty results from deficit accumulation in multiple body systems, with exaggerated vulnerability to external stressors. A growing consensus on defining frailty sets the stage for consensus on operationalization and widespread implementation in care settings. Frailty measurement is not yet integrated into daily clinical practice in Canada. Here, we will present how this integration might occur. We hope to demonstrate that implementation must appeal to inter-professional practice needs in different settings or circumstances. In some settings, methods for frailty case finding are expected to evolve as deemed to be most appropriate to the front-line users. In this “hands-off” approach, care providers, supported by emerging knowledge translation on frailty operationalization, would be informed by their setting and local practices to establish patterns of ad hoc case finding and component definition of frailty. This more nimble case finding strategy would be opportunistic, and would appeal to expert clinicians and self-directed teams who emphasize an individualized health care experience for their patients. In other settings, we can shape frailty case finding by building care algorithms around existing standardized practices and data repositories, leading to a systematic application of frailty measures and a more coordinated process of component definition and care protocols. Here, recommended instruments and data standards must be endorsed by health networks locally, provincially and nationally. The interRAI suite of assessment instruments has pan-Canadian standards in place and its pervasiveness makes it the most obvious starting point, especially in home care and long-term care. We anticipate the evolution of an integrated model informed by stakeholders and settings, where policy makers focus on system supports for frailty case finding, while front-line clinicians use case finding strategies to pinpoint and act on key frailty components.

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Correspondence to Darryl B. Rolfson.

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Rolfson, D.B., Heckman, G.A., Bagshaw, S.M. et al. Implementing Frailty Measures in the Canadian Healthcare System. J Frailty Aging 7, 208–216 (2018). https://doi.org/10.14283/jfa.2018.29

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Key words

  • Frailty
  • measurement
  • case finding
  • standards