Objective: To compare the process of care received by Medicaid-enrolled children with asthma served by community health centers (CHCs) and other Medicaid providers.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Five provider types serving Massachusetts Medicaid enrollees: three provider groups--CHCs, hospital outpatient departments (OPDs), and solo/group physicians--participating in the statewide Primary Care Clinician Plan; a staff model health maintenance organization (HMO); and fee-for-service (FFS) providers.
Study population: Six thousand three hundred twenty-one Medicaid-enrolled children (age 2-18) with asthma assigned to one of the above provider types in 1994.
Data: Person-level files were constructed by linking Medicaid claims, demographic and enrollment files with HMO encounter data.
Methods: Five claims-based process of care measures reflecting aspects of care recommended in national guidelines were developed and used to analyze patterns of care across provider types, controlling for case-mix and other covariates.
Results: Children served by CHCs and the HMO had significantly higher asthma visit rates compared with those served by OPDs, solo/group physicians and FFS providers. CHCs emergency department (ED) visit rates for asthma were lower than those of OPDs (P <0.001) and similar to other providers. However, CHC patients averaged more asthma hospitalizations relative to solo/group physicians or the HMO (P <0.0001). In multivariate analyses, children served by CHCs were 2.2 times as likely (95% CI, 1.02-4.91) as those served by solo/group physicians to receive a follow-up visit within 5 days of an asthma ED visit and 4.3 times as likely (95% CI, 1.45-12.68) to receive a follow-up visit within 5 days of hospital discharge. CHC patients with utilization suggestive of persistent asthma were less likely (OR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.13-0.59) than those served by solo/group physicians to be seen by an asthma specialist. There were no significant differences in measures of asthma pharmacotherapy across providers types.
Conclusion: These data suggest that CHCs provide more timely follow-up care after an asthma ED visit or hospitalization relative to solo/group physicians, but diminished access to asthma specialists. There were no differences in asthma pharmacology across providers. Relatively low access to asthma specialists among children served by CHCs warrants further investigation.