Introduction — Care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is provided by both family physicians (FP) and specialists. Ideally, patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care from this provider team. The objectives for this study were: 1) to describe the family and specialist physician network of care for Ontario patients newly diagnosed with COPD and 2) to determine the associations between selected characteristics of the physician network and unplanned healthcare utilization.
Methods — We conducted a retrospective cohort study using Ontario health administrative data housed at ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences). Ontario patients, ≥ 35 years, newly diagnosed with COPD were identified between 2005 and 2013. The FP and specialist network of care characteristics were described, and the relationship between selected characteristics (i.e., continuity of care) with unplanned healthcare utilization during the first 5 years after COPD diagnosis were determined in multivariate models.
Results — Our cohort consisted of 450,837 patients, mean age 61.5 (SD 14.6) years. The FP was the predominant provider of care for 86.4% of the patients. Using the Bice-Boxerman’s Continuity of Care Index (COCI), a measure reflecting care across different providers, 227,082 (50.4%) were categorized in a low COCI group based on a median cut-off. In adjusted analyses, patients in the low COCI group were more likely to have a hospital admission (OR = 2.27, 95% CI 2.20,2.22), 30-day readmission (OR = 2.44, 95% CI 2.39, 2.49) and ER visit (OR = 2.27, 95% CI 2.25, 2.29).
Conclusion — Higher indices of continuity of care are associated with reduced unplanned hospital use for patients with COPD. Primary care-based practice models to enhance continuity through coordination and integration of both primary and specialist care have the potential to enhance the health experience for patients with COPD and should be a health service planning priority.
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