Background: Chronic disorders constitute a primary concern because of their burden on healthcare systems worldwide. Integrated care strategies enhancing the interface between tertiary care and primary care are pivotal to improve chronic care.
Aim: To asses the prevalence of chronic disorders on hospital discharges and their impact on unplanned admissions and mortality.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of discharge information over 1 year (2004) in one University hospital.
Methods: Adoption of an operational definition of chronic disorder based on the WHO.
Main outcome: co-morbid conditions, emergency room and hospital admissions, outpatient consultations and mortality.
Results: Fifty-eight percent of patients presented at least one chronic condition (19 192 patients, 53% males, 63 +/- 18 years) as primary (12 526 patients, 38%) or secondary diagnosis. The Charlson index was 2 +/- 3. Each chronic condition was associated with a 30% increase of having had an admission in the previous year. Up to 9% (1 656) of chronic patients showed multiple admissions in the previous year: two (917 patients, 55%), three (360, 22%) and four or beyond (379, 23%), being mostly unscheduled hospitalizations. The three most prevalent chronic disorders were cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The rate of admissions was associated with co-morbidity (P < 0.001) and mortality (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: The study shows a high impact of cancer on planned hospitalizations whereas cardiovascular diseases and COPD generates a high percentage of unscheduled admissions. We conclude that integrated care services including patient-oriented guidelines are strongly needed to enhance both health and managerial outcomes.