Recently the international collaborative interRAI released a new suite of assessment tools designed to help appropriately care for persons who are aged or mentally ill. InterRAI is a group of 46 researchers, clinicians, and policy makers from 26 countries around the globe who have worked for three years on this new integrated suite of tools for assessing individuals’ health care needs and capabilities.
This key group of researchers includes The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health’s (SRPH) Catherine Hawes, Ph.D., and Charles Phillips, Ph.D., M.P.H., both professors of health policy and management. Hawes and Phillips helped found interRAI after working on the development of the nursing home Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI), a federally-mandated assessment tool. More than 15 million RAI assessments of nursing home residents are performed each year.
“This was an enormous task,” said Phillips, an interRAI fellow. “Getting people from around the globe to agree on a way to evaluate the health care in places as disparate as China, where a major pilot is just to begin, and Iceland, which has used earlier versions of these assessment tools since 1995—took real dedication and the commitment of incredible amounts of time from the entire membership of interRAI.” Phillips and Hawes recently hosted a four-day meeting attended by a dozen gerontologists and geriatricians from the United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland, all members of interRAI.
Assessments using interRAI’s suite of tools can be used by physicians, nurses, social workers and others in nursing homes, home care agencies, palliative-care programs and housing sites to identify the strengths and weaknesses, illnesses and capabilities of individuals in these settings. Then they can play a decisive role in supporting health professionals in developing improved plans of care to address problems and maintain function.
“These assessment tools not only help caregivers understand individuals needs, they also help caregivers develop appropriate care or treatment plans for these individuals,” said Hawes, another interRAI fellow.
The data accumulated from these assessments can also help managers and government officials determine who should be eligible for public programs, evaluate quality of care in programs and provide appropriate reimbursement for the care provided.
InterRAI already has collected data on persons in 26 nations. These early data have helped interRAI investigate the use of antidepressant drugs, physical restraints that tie an elderly person into a chair or bed, strategies for controlling pain and comparisons of quality of care across national boundaries.
The new suite can replace and improve on several interRAI assessment systems actively in use around the world. In the U.S., all nursing homes use the earlier version of the interRAI assessment system and 10 states are using the home care assessment. In several other nations, including most provinces in Canada, interRAI instruments are mandated as a vital part of providing quality care to elderly or disabled persons. The instruments are actively in use as well in Estonia, Finland, Germany, Holland, Israel, Australia and Japan, among other nations.
“One of the strong points of interRAI instruments has always been their basis on data and solid science; thereby ensuring an informed exchange between the health professional and the patient,” said John Morris, an interRAI project leader and co-director of the Research and Training Institute at Hebrew Senior Life in Boston.
A non-profit organization, interRAI’s provides its assessment systems free to governments and caregivers. More information about interRAI and its activities are available at www.interrai.org.

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