Background: The study goal was to assess indices of continuity of care in the primary care setting and their association with health outcomes and healthcare services utilization, given the reported importance of continuity regarding quality of care and healthcare utilization.
Methods: The study included a random sample of enrollees from Clalit Health Services 19 years-of-age or older who visited their primary care clinic at least three times in 2009. Indices of continuity of care were computed, including the Usual Provider Index (UPC), Modified Modified Continuity Index (MMCI), Continuity of Care Index (COC), and Sequential Continuity (SECON). Quality measures of preventive medicine and healthcare services utilization and their costs were assessed as outcomes.
Results: 1,713 randomly sampled patients were included in the study (mean age: 48.9 ± 19.2, 42% males). Continuity of care indices were: UPC: 0.75; MMCI: 0.81; COC: 0.67; SECON: 0.70. After controlling for patient characteristics in a multivariate analysis, a statistically significant association was found between higher values of UPC, COC, and SECON and a decrease in the number and cost of ED visits. Higher MMCI values were associated with a greater number and higher costs of medical consultation visits. Continuity of care indices were associated with BMI measurements, and inversely associated with blood pressure measurements. No association was found with other quality indicators, e.g., screening tests for cancer.
Conclusions: Several continuity of care indices were associated with decreased number and costs of ED visits. There were both positive and negative associations of continuity of care indices with different aspects of healthcare utilization. The relatively small effects of continuity might be due to the consistently high levels of continuity in Clalit Health Services.