Objective — Patients with cardiovascular diseases are common in the emergency department (ED), and continuity of care following that visit is needed to ensure that they receive evidence-based diagnostic tests and therapy. We examined the frequency of follow-up care after discharge from an ED with a new diagnosis of one of three cardiovascular diseases.
Methods — We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with a new diagnosis of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, or hypertension, who were discharged from 157 non-pediatric EDs in Ontario, Canada, between April 2007 and March 2014. We determined the frequency of follow-up care with a family physician, cardiologist, or internist within seven and 30 days, and assessed the association of patient, emergency physician, and family physician characteristics with obtaining follow-up care using cause-specific hazard modeling.
Results — There were 41,485 qualifying ED visits. Just under half (47.0%) had follow-up care within seven days, with 78.7% seen by 30 days. Patients with serious comorbidities (renal failure, dementia, COPD, stroke, coronary artery disease, and cancer) had a lower adjusted hazard of obtaining 7-day follow-up care (HRs 0.77-0.95) and 30-day follow-up care (HR 0.76-0.95). The only emergency physician characteristic associated with follow-up care was 5-year emergency medicine specialty training (HR 1.11). Compared to those whose family physician was remunerated via a primarily fee-for-service model, patients were less likely to obtain 7-day follow-up care if their family physician was remunerated via three types of capitation models (HR 0.72, 0.81, 0.85) or via traditional fee-for-service (HR 0.91). Findings were similar for 30-day follow-up care.
Conclusions — Only half of patients discharged from an ED with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and hypertension were seen within a week of being discharged. Patients with significant comorbidities were less likely to obtain follow-up care, as were those with a family physician who was remunerated via primarily capitation methods.