The role of provider continuity in preventing hospitalizations

Arch Fam Med. 1998 Jul-Aug;7(4):352-7. doi: 10.1001/archfami.7.4.352.


Objectives: To examine the association between provider continuity and future hospitalization in a Medicaid population, and to determine if this association is greater for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions.

Design: Analysis of paid claims to the Delaware Medicaid program during a 2-year period (July 1, 1993, to June 30, 1995). Continuity with a single provider during year 1 of the study was computed for each participant.

Participants: A total of 13,495 continuously enrolled fee-for-service Medicaid patients aged 0 to 64 years who had made at least 3 ambulatory physician visits during the first year of the study.

Main outcome measure: Likelihood of hospitalization in year 2 of the study for all conditions and for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions.

Results: The mean continuity score was 0.50 in year 1 and 11.9% of patients were hospitalized in year 2. After controlling for demographics, number of ambulatory visits, and case mix, higher provider continuity was associated with a lower likelihood of hospitalization for any condition (odds ratio [OR] = 0.56; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.46-0.69). For chronic ambulatory care-sensitive conditions there was a similar association between provider continuity and hospitalization (OR = 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34-0.88), but for acute ambulatory care-sensitive conditions there was no significant association (OR = 0.80; 95% CI, 0.48-1.34).

Conclusions: Continuity of care with a provider is associated with a decreased future likelihood of hospitalization in the Delaware Medicaid population. This suggests that policies that encourage patients to concentrate their care with a single provider may lead to lower hospitalization rates and possibly lower health care costs. This study does not support the hypothesis that a certain set of conditions are particularly ambulatory care sensitive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Delaware
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • United States