Background: Continuity of care is a basic tenant of primary care practice. However, the evidence on the importance of continuity of care for older adults with complex conditions is mixed.
Objective: To assess the relationship between measurement of continuity of care, number of chronic conditions, and health outcomes.
Design: We analyzed data from a cohort of 1,600 US older adults with diabetes and ≥1 other chronic condition in a private Medicare health plan from July 2010 to December 2011. Multivariate regression models were used to examine the association of baseline continuity (the first 6 months) and the composite outcome of any emergency room use or inpatient hospitalization occurring in the following 12-month period.
Results: After adjusting for baseline covariates, high known provider continuity (KPC) was associated with an 84% (adjusted odds ratio 0.16; 95% confidence interval 0.09-0.26) reduction in the risk of the composite outcome. High KPC was significantly associated with a lower risk of the composite outcome among individuals with ≥6 conditions. However, the usual provider of care and continuity of care indices were not significantly related with the composite outcome in the overall sample or in those with ≥6 conditions.
Conclusion: The relationship between continuity of care and adverse outcomes depends on the measure of continuity of care employed. High morbidity patients are more likely to benefit from continuity of care interventions as measured by the KPC, which measures the proportion of a patient's visits that are with the same providers over time.
Keywords: Medicare; Multimorbidity; care coordination; chronic disease; continuity of patient care; multiple chronic conditions; patient complexity.