Background — Variation in health care, when not based on patient preference, may result in poorer care. We determined whether variation in health services utilization, gastroenterologist care and outcomes existed among patients with elderly-onset inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Methods — Patients with IBD (diagnosed ≥65 years) were identified from population-based health administrative data from Ontario, Canada (1999 to 2014). We assessed variation across multispecialty physician networks in gastroenterologist care and outcomes using multilevel logistic regression. Median odds ratios (MOR) described variation. We evaluated the association between gastroenterologist supply, specialist care and outcomes.
Results — In 4806 patients, there was significant variation in having ever seen a gastroenterologist (MOR 3.35, P < 0.0001), having a gastroenterologist as the primary IBD care provider (MOR 4.16, P < 0.0001), 5-year colectomy risk in ulcerative colitis (MOR 1.38, P = 0.01), immunomodulator use (MOR 1.47, P = 0.001), and corticosteroid use (MOR 1.26, P = 0.006). No variation in emergency department visits, hospitalizations or intestinal resection (Crohn’s) was noted. Patients in networks with fewer gastroenterologists were less likely to see a gastroenterologist (odds ratio [OR] 0.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.15 to 0.56), have a gastroenterologist as their primary care provider (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.12 to 0.59), be hospitalized within 5 years (OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.69 to 0.98), and be prescribed biologics within 1 year (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.89).
Conclusions — Utilization of gastroenterology care in patients with elderly-onset IBD varies greatly. Patients treated by gastroenterologists and in networks with more gastroenterologists have better outcomes. There is a need to ensure all individuals with IBD have equal access to and utilization of specialist care to ensure the best possible outcomes.
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