Objectives: To determine if adherence to the recommended well-child care (WCC) visit schedule, independent of continuity of care (COC), is associated with lower risk of ambulatory care-sensitive hospitalizations (ACSH) and whether this association varies by chronic disease status.
Design: Population-based, retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Hawaii's largest health plan from 1999 to 2006.
Participants: A total of 36 944 children aged 3.5 years or younger were eligible if they were enrolled prior to 2 months of age, had 4 or more outpatient visits during the study period, and had an enrollment period that overlapped with 1 or more WCC visit interval.
Main exposure: Patients' WCC visit adherence and COC index.
Main outcome measure: Risk of ACSH (hazard ratio [HR]).
Results: Overall, 8921 (24%) children had 1 or more chronic disease. The proportion of ACSH among healthy children vs those with 1 or more chronic disease were 3% (n = 751) and 7% (n = 645), respectively. For children with chronic disease, those with the lowest WCC visit adherence (0%-25%) had 1.9 times (HR, 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5-2.5) the risk of ACSH compared with those in the highest category (75%-100%). The risk of ACSH for children with chronic disease who fell into the lowest COC category (0-0.25) was 2.4 times (HR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.7-3.5) higher than for those who fell into the highest category (0.75-1.0).
Conclusions: For children with chronic disease, both low WCC visit adherence and COC are independently associated with an increased risk of ACSH. Providing access to a consistent source of primary care appears to be important to this vulnerable population.