Preventable hospitalization and access to primary health care in an area of Southern Italy

BMC Health Serv Res. 2007 Aug 30:7:134. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-7-134.


Background: Ambulatory care-sensitive conditions (ACSC), such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, are conditions that can be managed with timely and effective outpatient care reducing the need of hospitalization. Avoidable hospitalizations for ACSC have been used to assess access, quality and performance of the primary care delivery system. The aims of this study were to quantify the proportion of avoidable hospital admissions for ACSCs, to identify the related patient's socio-demographic profile and health conditions, to assess the relationship between the primary care access characteristics and preventable hospitalizations, and the usefulness of avoidable hospitalizations for ACSCs to monitor the effectiveness of primary health care.

Methods: A random sample of 520 medical records of patients admitted to medical wards (Cardiology, Internal Medicine, Pneumology, Geriatrics) of a non-teaching acute care 717-bed hospital located in Catanzaro (Italy) were reviewed.

Results: A total of 31.5% of the hospitalizations in the sample were judged to be preventable. Of these, 40% were for congestive heart failure, 23.2% for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 13.5% for angina without procedure, 8.4% for hypertension, and 7.1% for bacterial pneumonia. Preventable hospitalizations were significantly associated to age and sex since they were higher in older patients and in males. The proportion of patients who had a preventable hospitalization significantly increased with regard to the number of hospital admissions in the previous year and to the number of patients for each primary care physician (PCP), with lower number of PCP accesses and PCP medical visits in the previous year, with less satisfaction about PCP health services, and, finally, with worse self-reported health status and shorter length of hospital stay.

Conclusion: The findings from this study add to the evidence and the urgency of developing and implementing effective interventions to improve delivery of health care at the community level and provided support to the usefulness of avoidable hospitalizations for ACSCs to monitor this process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Community / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Utilization Review