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Med Care. 2004 Apr;42(4 Suppl):III50-9.

A comprehensive clinical assessment tool to inform policy and practice: applications of the minimum data set.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island 02192, USA.


The Minimum Data Set (MDS) for nursing home (NH) resident assessment, designed to assess elders functional status and care needs, exemplifies how the information needs of clinical practice are congruent with those of research. Building on a review of the published literature, this article describes the development of the MDS, its reliability and validity testing, as well as the variety of different policy and research uses to which it has been applied. Interrater reliability of items and internal consistency of MDS summary scales is generally good to excellent. Validation studies reveal good correspondence to research quality instruments for cognition, activities of daily living, and diagnoses with more variable results for vision, pain, mood, and behavior scales. To date, no consistent evidence suggests that applications of MDS data for case-mix reimbursement and quality indicator monitoring systematically bias the data. Although facility variation in data quality could compromise some applications, creation of the MDS as a clinical tool for care planning provides an example of how assessment tools with clinical use can be used in administrative databases for research and policy applications.

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