Regular primary care lowers hospitalisation risk and mortality in seniors with chronic respiratory diseases

J Gen Intern Med. 2010 Aug;25(8):766-73. doi: 10.1007/s11606-010-1361-6. Epub 2010 Apr 28.


Background: Exacerbations in chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) are sensitive to seasonal variations in exposure to respiratory infectious agents and allergens and patient factors such as non-adherence. Hence, regular general practitioner (GP) contact is likely to be important in order to recognise symptom escalation early and adjust treatment.

Objective: To examine the association of regularity of GP visits with all-cause mortality and first CRD hospitalisation overall and within groups of pharmacotherapy level in older CRD patients.

Design: A retrospective cohort design using linked hospital, mortality, Medicare and pharmaceutical data for participant, exposure and outcome ascertainment. GP visit pattern was measured during the first 3 years of the observation period. Patients were then followed for a maximum of 11.5 years for ascertainment of hospitalisations and deaths.

Participants: We studied 108,455 patients aged >or=65 years with CRD in Western Australia (WA) during 1992-2006.

Main measures: A GP visit regularity score (range 0-1) was calculated and divided into quintiles. A clinician consensus panel classified levels of pharmacotherapy. Cox proportional hazards models, controlling for multiple factors including GP visit frequency, were used to calculate hazard ratios and confidence intervals.

Key results: Differences in survival curves and hospital avoidance pattern between the GP visit regularity quintiles were statistically significant (p = 0.0279 and p < 0.0001, respectively). The protective association between GP visit regularity and death appeared to be confined to the highest pharmacotherapy level group (P for interaction = 0.0001). Higher GP visit regularity protected against first CRD hospitalisation compared with the least regular quintile regardless of pharmacotherapy level (medium regular: HR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.77-0.92; 2nd most regular: HR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.67-0.82; most regular HR = 0.77, 95% CI = 0.68-0.86).

Conclusions: The findings indicate that regular and proactive 'maintenance' primary care, as distinct from 'reactive' care, is beneficial to older CRD patients by reducing their risks of hospitalisation and death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Allergens
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / complications
  • Lung Diseases / drug therapy
  • Lung Diseases / mortality*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Western Australia / epidemiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Allergens
  • Bronchodilator Agents