Physician Home Visit Patterns and Hospital Use Among Older Adults with Functional Impairments

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020 Sep;68(9):2074-2081. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16639. Epub 2020 Jun 24.


Background: Home-based primary care has been associated with reductions in hospital use among homebound older adults, but population-based studies on the general home visit patterns of primary care physicians are lacking.

Objective: We examined the association between the provision of home visits by primary care physicians and subsequent use of hospital-based care among their older adult patients with extensive functional impairments.

Design: Population-based retrospective cohort study.

Setting: The setting was Ontario, Canada, from October 2014 to September 2016.

Participants: Older adults (aged ≥65 years) with extensive functional impairments receiving publicly funded home care.

Measurements: We measured the provision of home visits by a patient's most responsible primary care physician during the year before a comprehensive home care assessment. Physician home visit patterns were measured as the proportion of the total outpatient visits in a year that were home visits, categorized with quartiles. Multivariable, multilevel negative binomial regression models examined the associations between physician-level home visit provision and patient emergency department visits and hospital admissions over the 6 months following the home care assessment.

Results: There were 49,613 patients in the cohort who were linked to 8,096 unique primary care physicians. A total of 69.1% of physicians provided at least one home visit in a year, with the median proportion of home visits to total visits ranging from 0.057% to 3.19% across quartiles. Patients whose physicians were in the highest home visit provision quartile had lower rates of emergency department visits (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.90-0.96) and hospital admissions (IRR = 0.89; 95% CI = 0.85-0.93) compared with patients whose physician did not do home visits.

Conclusion: Home care patients with extensive functional impairments whose physicians provided higher levels of home visits had fewer emergency department visits and hospital admissions. Expanding home visits by primary care physicians could reduce hospital use by older adults living with functional impairments in the community.

Keywords: home care services; home visits; house calls; primary health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comprehensive Health Care / trends
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • House Calls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Retrospective Studies

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