Paramedic assessment of frailty: An exploratory study of perceptions of frailty assessment tools

Wayne Harris, Peter Vincent Lucas, Helen Eyles, Leigh Parker



Introduction: Frailty is recognised as a significant variable in the health of older adults. Early identification by paramedics of those at risk of frailty may assist in timely entry to an appropriate clinical care pathway. Early referral to such pathways has been shown to improve patient outcomes and quality of life, as well as deliver economic benefits. To date, little research has been completed regarding assessment of frailty by paramedic professionals using validated assessment tools. The objective of this study was to determine paramedicine students’ perceptions of screening tools to facilitate assessment and knowledge of frailty of older adults. The Edmonton Frail Scale (EFS) and the Groningen Frailty Index (GFI) were determined suitable for this purpose.

Methods: The research adopted a mixed methods approach using a survey tool developed to gather both qualitative and quantitative data from students at the completion of a structured aged care clinical placement. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data identified key features of the tools, while a Likert-type scale was used to measure perspectives about the suitability of the tools for use in paramedic practice.

Results: Thirty-seven paramedicine students were invited to participate in the study. Thirteen were able to use both tools to conduct frailty assessments and submitted survey responses. Student perspectives indicated both the EFS and GFI are potentially suitable for paramedicine and as clinical learning tools regarding geriatric assessments. Median time to administer the tools was eight minutes for the EFS and ten minutes for the GFI.

Conclusion: Paramedicine students support a frailty assessment tool to assist clinical decision making regarding older adults. Further appraisal of validated frailty assessment tools by operational paramedics in a pre-hospital environment is warranted to determine absolute utility for Australian paramedics.


Aged; Emergency medical services; Frailty; Paramedic; Primary Health Care

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