Objectives: To determine whether receiving the predominance of ambulatory visits from a primary care provider compared to a specialty provider is associated with better outcomes in older adults with multi morbidity.
Design: Observational study using propensity score matching.
Setting: Medicare fee-for-service, 2011-12.
Participants: Beneficiaries aged 65 and older with multimorbidity.
Measurements: The independent variable was an indicator for having a specialty (versus primary care) as the predominant provider of care (PPC). Main outcomes were 1-year mortality, hospitalization, standardized expenditures, and ambulatory visit patterns.
Results: Two-thirds of 3,934,942 beneficiaries with multimorbidity had a primary care provider as their PPC. Individuals with a specialty PPC had more hospitalizations (40.3 more per 1,000) and higher spending ($1,781 more per beneficiary) than those with a primary care PPC, but there was little difference in mortality (0.2% higher) or preventable hospitalizations. Spending differences were largest for professional fees ($769 higher per beneficiary), inpatient stays ($572 higher per beneficiary), and outpatient facilities ($510 higher per beneficiary) (all P < .001). In addition, people with a specialist PPC had lower continuity of care and saw more providers.
Conclusions: Older adults with multimorbidity with a specialist as their main ambulatory care provider had higher spending and lower continuity of care than those whose PPC was in primary care but similar clinical outcomes.
Keywords: continuity; multimorbidity; physician specialty; quality; spending.
© 2017, Copyright the Authors Journal compilation © 2017, The American Geriatrics Society.