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Unplanned index hospital admissions among new older high-cost health care users in Ontario: a population-based matched cohort study

Muratov S, Lee J, Holbrook A, Paterson JM, Guertin JR, Mbuagbaw L, Gomes T, Khuu W, Pequeno P, Tarride JE. CMAJ Open. 2019; 7(3):E537-45. Epub 2019 Aug 25. DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20180185.


Background — Most health care spending is concentrated within a small group of high-cost health care users. To inform health policies, we examined the characteristics of index hospital admissions and their predictors among incident older high-cost users compared to older non-high-cost users in Ontario.

Methods — Using Ontario administrative data, we identified incident high-cost users aged 66 years or more and matched them 1:3 on age, gender and Local Health Integration Network with non-high-cost users aged 66 years or more. We defined high-cost users as patients within the top 5% most costly high-cost users during fiscal year 2013/14 but not during 2012/13. An index hospital admission, the main outcome, was defined as the first unplanned hospital admission during 2013/14, with no hospital admissions in the preceding 12 months. Descriptively, we analyzed the attributes of index hospital admissions, including costs. We identified predictors of index hospital admissions using stratified logistic regression.

Results — Over half (95 375/175 847 [54.2%]) of all high-cost users had an unplanned index hospital admission, compared to 8838/527 541 (1.7%) of non-high-cost users. High-cost users had a poorer health status, longer acute length of stay (mean 7.5 d v. 2.9 d) and more frequent designation as alternate level of care before discharge (20.8% v. 1.7%) than did non-high-cost users. Ten diagnosis codes accounted for roughly one-third of the index hospital admission costs in both cohorts. Although many predictors were similar between the cohorts, a lower risk of an index hospital admission was associated with residence in long-term care, attachment to a primary care provider and recent consultation by a geriatrician among high-cost users.

Interpretation — The high prevalence of index hospital admissions and the corresponding costs are a distinctive feature of incident older high-cost users. Improved access to specialist outpatient care, home-based social care and long-term care when required are worth further investigation.

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