Objective: To investigate the association between care co-ordination and use of the Emergency Department (ED) in older managed care enrollees.
Design: Nested case-control with 103 cases (used the ED) and 194 controls (did not use the ED).
Patients and methods: Older patients with multiple chronic illnesses enrolled in a care management programme of a large group-model health maintenance organisation with more than 50,000 members over the age of 64. Better care co-ordination was defined as timely follow-up after a change in treatment; fewer decision-makers involved with the care plan; and a higher patient-perceived rating of overall care co-ordination. Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between ED use (the outcome variable) and measures of care co-ordination (the predictor variables).
Results: Self-reported care co-ordination was not significantly different between cases and controls for any of the four classifications of inappropriate ED use. Similarly, no differences were found in the number of different physicians or medication prescribers involved in the patients' care. Four-week follow-up after potentially high-risk events for subsequent ED use, including changes in chronic disease medications, missed encounters, and same day encounters, did not differ between subjects with inappropriate ED use and controls.
Conclusion: Existing measures of care co-ordination were not associated with inappropriate ED use in this study of older adults with complex care needs. The absence of an association may, in part, be attributable to the paucity of validated measures to assess care co-ordination, as well as the methodological complexity inherent in studying this topic. Future research should focus on the development of new measures and on approaches that better isolate the role of care co-ordination from other potential variables that influence utilisation.