Using remote assessment to provide home modification services to underserved elders.

PURPOSE: Although remote home assessment would enable specialists to prescribe home modifications for anyone, anywhere, the strategy is dependent on the ability to provide specialists with the same information as an in-home assessment. The purpose of this paper is to document that remote assessment is feasible and concurs largely with traditional in-home assessment based on expert judgment.

DESIGN AND METHODS: We compared two new remote assessments, a “zero-tech” paper-and-pencil protocol and a “high-tech” televideo protocol, to traditional in-home assessments to determine the equivalence of the remote and in-home assessments. We determined equivalence by comparing each of the remote assessments to a traditional in-home assessment in the same home. In-home assessments were conducted by home-modification specialists in all homes. Data collection for the remote protocols was conducted by individuals inexperienced in home modification. Assessment data from the remote protocols were analyzed by specialists to diagnose problems and prescribe solutions.

RESULTS: The overall rates of correct problem identification (i.e., Sensitivity + Specificity) were significant (p =.000) for both the remote paper-and-pencil (96.4%) and remote televideo (87.1%) protocols. Similarly, rates of agreement in recommendations of solutions were significant (p =.000) for both remote assessments (78.8% and 77.4%, respectively).

IMPLICATIONS: The need for home-modification services, particularly in rural areas, far exceeds the capacity of specialists to provide them. Our findings suggest that remote assessments can potentially be used to identify mobility and safety problems in the home as well as to recommend solutions to those problems. As a result, remote home assessment has the potential to provide underserved elders with access to home-modification services that have heretofore eluded them.