Association of lower continuity of care with greater risk of emergency department use and hospitalization in children

Pediatrics. 2001 Mar;107(3):524-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.107.3.524.


Context: The benefits of continuity of pediatric care remain controversial.

Objective: To determine whether there is an association between having a continuous relationship with a primary care pediatric provider and decreased risk of emergency department (ED) visitation and hospitalization.

Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting and Population. We used claims data from 46 097 pediatric patients enrolled at Group Health Cooperative, a large staff-model health maintenance organization, between January 1, 1993, and December 31, 1998, for our analysis. To be eligible, patients had to have been continuously enrolled for at least a 2-year period or since birth and to have made at least 4 visits to one of the Group Health Cooperative clinics. MAIN EXPOSURE VARIABLE: A continuity of care (COC) index that quantifies the degree to which a patient has experienced continuous care with a provider.

Main outcome measures: ED utilization and hospitalization.

Results: Compared with children with the highest COC, children with medium continuity were more likely to have visited the ED (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.28 [1.20-1.36]) and more likely to be hospitalized (HR: 1.22 [1.09-1.38]). Children with the lowest COC were even more likely to have visited the ED (HR: 1.58 [1.49-1.66]) and to be hospitalized (HR: 1.54 [1.33-1.75]). These risks were even greater for children on Medicaid and those with asthma.

Conclusions: Lower continuity of primary care is associated with higher risk of ED utilization and hospitalization. Efforts to improve and maintain continuity may be warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / organization & administration
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Continuity of Patient Care / classification*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / organization & administration
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oregon
  • Pediatrics
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States