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Incident atrial fibrillation in the emergency department in Ontario: a population-based retrospective cohort study of follow-up care

Atzema CL, Yu B, Ivers N, Rochon P, Lee DS, Schull MJ, Austin PC. CMAJ Open. 2015; 3(2): E182-91.


Background — Continuity of care has been shown to be poor following in-hospital discharge, and there are substantially fewer resources to facilitate follow-up care arrangements after discharge from an emergency department. Our objective was to assess the frequency, timeliness and predictors for obtaining follow-up care following discharge from an emergency department in Ontario with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study involving all patients discharged from the 157 nonpediatric emergency departments in Ontario, who received a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation between 2007 and 2012. We determined the frequency of follow-up care with a family physician, cardiologist or internist within 7 (timely) and 30 days of the emergency department visit, and assessed the association of emergency and family physician characteristics, including primary care model type, with obtaining timely follow-up care.

Results — Among 14 907 patients discharged from Ontario emergency departments with a new, primary diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, half (n = 7473) had timely follow-up care. At 30 days, 2678 patients (18.0%) still had not obtained follow-up care. Among emergency and family physician factors, lack of a family physician had the largest independent association with acquiring timely follow-up care (odds ratio [OR] 0.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.50–0.69). Using patients with a family physician belonging to a primarily fee-for-service remuneration model as the comparison group, patients with a family physician belonging to a capitation-based Family Health Network, as part of a Family Health Team, were less likely to receive timely follow-up care (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.62–0.86), as were those whose family physician belonged to the same model type that was not part of a Family Health Team (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.60–0.97).

Interpretation — Only half of the patients who were discharged from an emergency department in Ontario with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation were seen within 7 days of discharge. The most influential factor was having a family physician; patients with a family physician being remunerated via primarily fee-for-service methods were more likely to be seen within 7 days than those who were reimbursed through a primarily capitation model. Systems-wide solutions are needed to ensure timely follow-up care is available for all patients with chronic diseases.

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Keywords: Atrial fibrillation Continuity of care Emergency department discharge

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