Introduction: The purpose of this study was to determine whether heat waves are associated with increased frequency of clinic visits for ICD-9 codes of illnesses traditionally associated with heat waves.
Methods: During 4 years of family medicine clinic data between 2012 and 2016, we identified six heat wave events in San Diego County. For each heat wave event, we selected a control period in the same season that was twice as long. Scheduling a visit on a heat wave day (versus a non-heat wave day) was the primary predictor, and receiving a primary ICD-9 disease code related to heat waves was the outcome. Analyses were adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity and marital status.
Results: Of the 5448 visits across the heat wave and control periods, 6.4% of visits (n = 346) were for heat wave-related diagnoses. Scheduling a visit on heat wave day was not associated with receiving a heat wave-related ICD code as compared with the control period (adjusted odds ratio: 1.35; 95% confidence interval: 0.86-1.36; P = 0.51).
Discussion: We show that in a relatively large and demographically diverse population, patients who schedule appointments during heat waves are not being more frequently seen for diagnoses typically associated with heat waves in the acute setting. Given that heat waves are increasing in frequency due to climate change, there is an opportunity to increase utilization of primary care clinics during heat waves.