An evaluation of the personal response system program for the elderly in Harris County, Texas

Gail Meredith Fraser Chanpong, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The Personal Response System Program at Huffington Center on Aging, Baylor College of Medicine, provides emergency call systems for elderly people living independently in Houston, Texas. The goal of the project was to complete a formative evaluation of the Personal Response System Program. The specific aims of the evaluation were three-fold. One aim was to evaluate participant health status and level of disability. The second aim was to develop a health care cost estimation strategy. Finally, a preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis was completed to evaluate the program's impact on health care costs and health status among the elderly target population. The evaluation was a longitudinal, randomized experimental design. After the screening of 120 volunteers for eligibility, clients were asked to complete a written questionnaire and a monthly health service contact diary. Volunteers were contacted by telephone interviewers to collect health status information from 100 eligible clients (83%) on three occasions during the six months of follow-up. Initially, volunteers were randomized to two experimental groups. The two groups were found to be comparable at the beginning of the study. No significant differences were detected related to health status, level of disability, or history of physician visits at baseline. However, the group with the Personal Response System (PRS) device had more adverse health events, higher IADL scores, more frequent use of walkers, lower average health status scores, and fewer community volunteers hours than the usual care comparison group. The health care costs were estimated based on an algorithm adapted from the American Medical Association guidelines. Average total health care costs for the group with the PRS device ($912) were greater than the usual care group ($464). However, median health care values for the PRS group ($263) were similar to the usual care comparison group ($234). The preliminary findings indicated that the use of the PRS device was not associated with health care cost savings. In the preliminary cost-effectiveness analysis, use of the personal response system was found to be associated with increased mental health status among elderly clients. The cost-effectiveness evaluation indicated that the associated cost for six months was $710 per unit increase in mental component score when the $150 PRS subscription was included. However, clients with the PRS device were found to have a greater decline in physical health status during the six-month follow-up. The beneficial effect on mental health status was found to be in contrast to negative findings associated with changes in physical health status. The implications for future research relate to the need to identify risk factors among geriatric populations to better target groups that would most likely benefit from PRS Program enrollment.

Subject Area

Health care|Public health|Economics|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Chanpong, Gail Meredith Fraser, "An evaluation of the personal response system program for the elderly in Harris County, Texas" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9929459.