Background: Readmissions in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are common and costly. We examined the effect of early follow-up visit with patient's primary care physician (PCP) or pulmonologist following acute hospitalization on the 30-day risk of an emergency department (ER) visit and readmission.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries with an identifiable PCP who were hospitalized for COPD between 1996 and 2006. Three or more visits to a PCP in the year prior to the hospitalization established a PCP for a patient. We performed a Cox proportional hazard regression with time-dependent covariates to determine the risk of 30-day ER visit and readmission in patients with or without a follow-up visit to their PCP or pulmonologist.
Results: Of the 62 746 patients admitted for COPD, 66.9% had a follow-up visit with their PCP or pulmonologist within 30 days of discharge. Factors associated with lower likelihood of outpatient follow-up visit were longer length of hospital stay, prior hospitalization for COPD, older age, black race, lower socioeconomic status, and emergency admission. Those receiving care at nonteaching, for-profit, and smaller-sized hospitals were more likely to have a follow-up visit. In a multivariate, time-dependent analysis, patients who had a follow-up visit had a significantly reduced risk of an ER visit (hazard ratio [HR], 0.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83-0.90) and readmission (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.87-0.96).
Conclusion: Continuity with patient's PCP or pulmonologist after an acute hospitalization may lower rates of ER visits and readmission in patients with COPD.