Purpose: To determine the potential cost savings of decreased emergency department (ED) visits resulting from increased continuity of care provided in a pediatric medical home.
Methods: An economic modeling study comparing the cost of ED visits associated with average continuity of care versus the cost of ED visits associated with a 10% point increase in continuity was performed. This model's premise is that increased continuity will decrease care in the ED. Parameters of the model included average continuity of care and expected use of the ED by pediatric patients as well as the relationship between these two variables. Parameters were estimated from the literature. Average continuity, as measured by the Continuity of Care Index by Bice and Boxerman, was determined to be 40%. Average ED use was estimated to be 0.68 visits/child per year. Continuity of care was stratified into low, medium, and high levels. The Medical University of South Carolina's ED charges were used. An average pediatric practice was estimated to contain 2000 patients.
Results: Two hypothetical practices of 2000 patients each were created to represent pediatric medical homes: practice 1 received 40% continuity and practice 2 received 50%. The model's outcome was measured in terms of expected ED charges per practice averted over a 1-year period. Increasing continuity of care by 10% points yielded a decline in expected ED visits from 1362 to 1290 per practice: 19,905 US dollars was saved.
Conclusion: Continuity of care can yield many benefits, including cost savings from decreased charges associated with less frequent ED use.