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J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012 Sep;13(7):602-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

Making the investment count: revision of the Minimum Data Set for nursing homes, MDS 3.0.

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UCLA/Jewish Home Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



The Minimum Data Set (MDS) is a potentially powerful tool for implementing standardized assessment in nursing homes (NHs). Its content has implications for residents, families, providers, researchers, and policymakers, all of whom have expressed concerns about the reliability, validity, and relevance of MDS 2.0. Some argue that because MDS 2.0 fails to include items that rely on direct resident interview, it fails to obtain critical information and effectively disenfranchises many residents from the assessment process.


Design a major revision of the MDS, MDS 3.0, and evaluate whether the revision improves reliability, validity, resident input, clinical utility, and decreases collection burden.


In the form design phase, we gathered information from a wide range of experts, synthesized existing literature, worked with a national consortium of VA researchers to revise and test eight sections, pilot tested a draft MDS 3.0 and revised the draft based on results from the pilot. In the national validation and evaluation phase, we tested MDS 3.0 in 71 community NHs and 19 VHA NHs, regionally distributed throughout the United States. The sample was selected based on scheduled MDS 2.0 assessments. Comatose residents were excluded. A total 3822 residents of community NHs in eight states were included. The evaluation was designed to test and analyze inter-rater agreement (reliability) between research nurses and between facility staff and research nurses, validity of key sections, response rates for interview items, anonymous feedback on changes from participating nurses, and time to complete the MDS assessment.


The reliability for research nurse to research nurse and for research nurse to facility staff was good or excellent for most items. Response rates for the resident interview sections were high: 90% for cognitive, 86% for mood, 85% for preferences, and 87% for pain. Staff survey responses showed increased satisfaction with clinical relevance, validity and clarity compared with MDS 2.0. The test version of the MDS 3.0 took 45% less time for facilities to complete.


Improving the reliability, accuracy, and usefulness of the MDS has profound implications for NH care and public policy. Enhanced accuracy supports the primary legislative intent that MDS be a tool to improve clinical assessment and supports the credibility of programs that rely on MDS.

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