Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-405) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Chien-Lung Chan, Huey-Jen You, Hsin-Tsung Huang contributed equally to this work.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
CLC conceptualized the study, participated in the analysis of the data, drafted the manuscript and revised the manuscript. HTH conceptualized the study and participated in the study design, statistical analysis, and interpretation of data. HJY conceptualized the project, participated in the study design, interpretation of data, writing of the manuscript, and revised the manuscript. HWT integrated the results of the research into clinical problems and revised the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
The increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions has accentuated the importance of coordinating and integrating health care services. Patients with better continuity of care (COC) have a lower utilization rate of emergency department (ED) services, lower hospitalization and better care outcomes. Previous COC studies have focused on the care outcome of patients with a single chronic condition or that of physician-patient relationships; few studies have investigated the care outcome of patients with multiple chronic conditions. Using multi-chronic patients as subjects, this study proposes an integrated continuity of care (ICOC) index to verify the association between COC and care outcomes for two scopes of chronic conditions, at physician and medical facility levels.
This study used a dataset of 280,840 subjects, obtained from the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database (LHID 2005), compiled by the National Health Research Institutes, of the National Health Insurance Bureau of Taiwan. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to integrate the indices of density, dispersion and sequence into ICOC to measure COC outcomes - the utilization rate of ED services and hospitalization. A Generalized Estimating Equations model was used to verify the care outcomes.
We discovered that the higher the COC at medical facility level, the lower the utilization rate of ED services and hospitalization for patients; by contrast, the higher the COC at physician level, the higher the utilization rate of ED services (odds ratio > 1; Exp(β) = 2.116) and hospitalization (odds ratio > 1; Exp(β) = 1.688). When only those patients with major chronic conditions with the highest number of medical visits were considered, it was found that the higher the COC at both medical facility and physician levels, the lower the utilization rate of ED services and hospitalization.
The study shows that ICOC is more stable than single indices and it can be widely used to measure the care outcomes of different chronic conditions to accumulate empirical evidence. Concentrated care of multi-chronic patients by a single physician often results in unsatisfactory care outcomes. This highlights the need for referral mechanisms and integration of specialties inside or outside medical facilities, in order to optimize patient-centered care.