Better continuity of care is expected to improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs, but patterns of utilization, costs, and clinical complications associated with the current patterns of care continuity have not been quantified.
To measure the association between care continuity, costs, and rates of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and complications for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic disease.
Retrospective cohort study.
Insurance claims data for a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries.
Medicare beneficiaries experiencing a 12-month episode of care for congestive heart failure (CHF, n=53,488), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, n=76,520) or diabetes mellitus (DM, n=166,654) in 2008–2009.
Main outcomes and measures
Hospitalizations, emergency department visits, complications, costs of care associated with the Bice-Boxerman Continuity of Care (COC) Index, a measure of the outpatient continuity of care related to conditions of interest.
The mean COC index for CHF was 0.55 (standard deviation [SD] 0.31), for COPD 0.60 (SD 0.34), and for DM 0.50 (SD 0.32). After multivariable adjustment, higher levels of continuity were associated with lower odds of inpatient hospitalization (odds ratios [OR] for a 0.1 increase in COC were 0.94 [95% CI, 0.93–0.95] for CHF, 0.95 [95% CI, 0.94–0.96] for COPD, and 0.95 [95% CI, 0.95–0.96] for DM), lower odds of emergency department visits (ORs were 0.92 [95% CI, 0.91,0.92] for CHF, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.92–0.93] for COPD, and 0.94 [95% CI, 0.93–0.94] for DM), and lower odds of complications (OR range, 0.92–0.96 across the three complication types and three conditions; all p<0.0001). For every 0.1 increase in the COC index, episode costs of care were 4.7% lower for CHF (95% CI, 4.4%–5.0%), 6.3% lower for COPD (95% CI, 6.0%–6.5%), and 5.1% lower for DM (95% CI, 5.0%–5.2%) in adjusted analyses.
Conclusions and Relevance
Modest differences in care continuity for Medicare beneficiaries are associated with sizable differences in costs, utilization, and complications.