The Minimum Data Set

Construct: An adult's functional, medical, psychosocial, and cognitive status

Elderly womanDescription of Measure: The Minimum Data Set (MDS) is a standardized, comprehensive assessment of an adult's functional, medical, psychosocial, and cognitive status. It is commonly used in long-term care facilities and outpatient and home-based social service programs for older adults. The MDS can be administered to caregivers to assess care-recipient capacities with activities of daily living (ADLs). According to researchers, MDS items met a standard for excellent reliability (i.e., intra-class correlation of .7 or higher) in key areas of functional status, such as cognition, ADLs, continence, and diagnoses.

A Cognitive Performance Scale (CPS) has been developed from 5 select items on the MDS to obtain a functional view of individual cognitive performance. A recent variation of the MDS also has been developed for use in the home with children who have special health care needs and who are in public assistance programs (Fournier, Davis, Patnaik, Elliott, Dyer, et al., 2010).


Fournier, C. J., Davis, M., Patnaik, A., Elliott, T. R., Dyer, J. A., Jasek, E., & Phillips, C. D. (2010). Modeling caregivers’ perceptions of children’s need for formal care: physical function, intellectual disability level, and behavior. Disability and Health Journal, 3, 213-222.

Hawes, C., Morris, J.N., Phillips, C.D., Mor, V., Fries, B., & Nonemaker, S. (1995). Reliability estimates for the Minimum Data Set Nursing Facility Resident Assessment and Care Screening (MDS). The Gerontologist, 35, 172-178.

Morris, J.N., Fries, B.E., Carpenter, G.I., & Bernabei, R. (1996). The RAI-HC assessment tool: an international reliability trial. The Gerontologist, 36 (Special Issue 1), 291.

Morris, J.N., Hawes, C., Fries, B., Phillips, C., Mor, V., Katz, S., et al. (1990). Designing the national resident assessment instrument for nursing homes. The Gerontologist, 30, 293-301.