We sought to assess continuity of care for elderly patients in Korea and to examine any association between continuity of care and health outcomes (hospitalization, emergency department visits, health care costs). This was a retrospective cohort study using the Korea National Health Insurance Claims Database. Elderly people, 65-84 yr of age, who were first diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (n=268,220), hypertension (n=858,927), asthma (n=129,550), or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, n=131,512) in 2002 were followed up for four years, until 2006. The mean of the Continuity of Care Index was 0.735 for hypertension, 0.709 for diabetes mellitus, 0.700 for COPD, and 0.663 for asthma. As continuity of care increased, in all four diseases, the risks of hospitalization and emergency department visits decreased, as did health care costs. In the Korean health care system, elderly patients with greater continuity of care with health care providers had lower risks of hospital and emergency department use and lower health care costs. In conclusion, policy makers need to develop and try actively the program to improve the continuity of care in elderly patients with chronic diseases.
Keywords: Asthma; Continuity of Patient Care; Diabetes Mellitus; Health Care Costs; Hospitalization; Hypertension; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive.