For the first time, researchers have used an event-based data linkage method to link hospital data and residential aged care data on a wide scale.

A team from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) linked data from 2001-02 across six jurisdictions (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory).

According to a preliminary report, approximately 10 per cent of the 620,000 hospital leavers aged 65 and over in this period went into residential aged care.

Close to two thirds of this group were already living permanently in residential aged care and about a third were new admissions.

Two thirds of the group who went from hospital to residential aged care were women and nearly three quarters were aged 80 or older.

Unsurprisingly, people entering respite rather than permanent residential care tended to have lower care needs.

Just over half of all people who transferred from hospital to residential respite care returned to the community within 12 weeks without going back in the next four weeks.

A fifth of people who went into permanent residential aged care died within 12 weeks.

The AIHW’s Rosemary Karmel who led the research said it will help inform crucial policy and education initiatives.

“We can now look at people moving from hospital to residential aged care and get a handle on why they are moving and what sort of needs they have,” she said.

“It will help targets areas for improvement in treatment and practice both in hospitals and the aged care setting.”

The study found that people with falls and behavioural issues were more likely to enter residential care.

Eighty per cent of people moving to residential aged care from hospital following an injury had suffered a fall.

Patients moving into residential aged care from hospital were also three times more likely to have mental and behavioural disorders recorded as their principal diagnosis than people returning to nursing homes and hostels.

The AIHW researchers are currently conducting further analysis on national linkage data.

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