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Physician availability in long-term care and resident hospital transfer: a retrospective cohort study

Kobewka DM, Kunkel E, Hsu A, Talarico R, Tanuseputro P. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2019; Aug 5 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2019.06.004.


Objectives — To investigate whether same-day physician access in long-term care homes reduces resident emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations.

Design — Retrospective cohort study.

Setting and Participants — 161 long-term care homes in Ontario, Canada, and 20,624 residents living in those homes.

Methods — We administered a survey to Ontario long-term care homes from March to May 2017 to collect their typical wait time for a physician visit. We linked the survey to administrative databases to capture other long-term care home characteristics, resident characteristics, hospitalizations, and ED visits. We defined a cohort of residents living in survey-respondent homes between January and May 2017 and followed each resident for 6 months or until discharge or death. We estimated negative binomial regression models on counts of hospitalizations and ED visits with random intercepts for long-term care homes. We controlled for residents' sociodemographic and illness characteristics, long-term care home size, chain status, rurality, and nurse practitioner access.

Results — Fifty-two homes (32%) reported same-day physician access. Among residents of homes with same-day physician access, 9% had a hospitalization and 20% had an ED visit during follow-up. In contrast, among residents in homes without same-day access, 12% were hospitalized and 22% visited an ED. The adjusted hospitalization and ED rates among residents of homes with same-day physician access were 21% lower (rate ratio = 0.79, P = .02) and 14% lower (rate ratio = 0.86, P = .07), respectively, than residents of other homes. We estimate that nearly 1 in 6 resident hospitalizations could be prevented if all long-term care homes had same-day physician access.

Conclusions and Implications — Residents of long-term care homes with same-day physician access experience lower hospitalization and ED visit rates than residents in homes that wait longer for physicians, even after adjusting for important resident and home characteristics. Improved on-demand access to physicians has the potential to reduce hospital transfer rates.

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