Outcomes in Older Adults with Multimorbidity Associated with Predominant Provider of Care Specialty

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Sep;65(9):1916-1923. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14882. Epub 2017 Apr 8.


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.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Comorbidity*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Propensity Score
  • Specialization / economics
  • Specialization / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States