Discontinuity of Care

May 26th, 2009 | Sources: BurrillReport, JAMA


Hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries are far less likely to be seen in house by their PCP than they were 10 years ago, according to Gulshan Sharma and his team at the University of Texas medical Branch of Galveston.

willthechainbeunbroken?The findings raise concern about continuity of care as various payment reforms and the hospitalist movement change longstanding routines.

The scientists reported that in 1996, 51% of hospitalized Medicare patients were seen by at least one physician that had seen them as an outpatient in the preceding year.

In 2006, that number had dropped to 40%.

To reach these conclusions, the scientists utilized a retrospective cohort trial design involving 3,020,770 hospital admissions from over a 2 year period, representing a 5% national sample of Medicare beneficiaries.

The write-up is in JAMA.

Using multivariable, multilevel models, the scientists ascribed about a third of the lost continuity to the hospitalist movement. Medicare payment formulas discourage PCPs from visiting their hospitalized patients when hospitalists are on the case.

Patients admitted on weekends, or who lived in large metropolitan areas or in New England experienced greater losses in contact with their outpatient physicians during the study period.

For its study, Sharma’s team posited that continuity of care included 3 dimensions: continuity in information, continuity in management, and continuity in the patient-physician relationship.
The team recommends further study to determine whether the reduced continuity of care has detrimental effects on patient outcomes, and that interventions be developed which would mitigate any such untoward effects.


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