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The effects of continuity of rheumatology care on emergency department utilization and hospitalizations for individuals with early rheumatoid arthritis: a population-based study

Davtyan Abel, Lee JJY, Eder L, Hawker GA, Luo J, Barber CEH, Thorne JC, Widdifield J. J Rheumatol. 2023; Feb 1 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI:

Objective — To determine if continuity of rheumatology care influences rates of emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods — A closed inception cohort of patients with RA diagnosed between 2000 and 2009 were followed until December 31, 2019. During the first 5 years following diagnosis, we categorized patients into 3 rheumatology care continuity groups (high, intermediate, and not retained in rheumatology care). Using a landmark analysis, we compared rates of ED visits and hospitalizations during follow-up. Multivariable Poisson regression models were used to estimate rate ratios (RRs), adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, and health services access and supply measures.

Results — The cohort included 38,528 patients, of which 57.7% (n = 22,221) were classified in the high rheumatology continuity group, 17.2% (n = 6636) were in the intermediate group, and 25.1% (n = 9671) were not retained in rheumatology care. Relative to the high continuity group, both the intermediate and nonretention groups had higher ED rates (RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.08-1.20, and RR 1.12, 95% CI 1.08-1.16, respectively). The intermediate group also experienced higher adjusted hospitalization rates (207.4, 95% CI 203.0-211.8 per 1000 person-years [PY]) than the high continuity group (193.5, 95% CI 191.4-195.6 per 1000 PY).

Conclusion — Patients with RA with higher continuity of rheumatology care had lower rates of ED visits and hospitalizations compared to those who did not receive continuous rheumatology care during the first 5 years of follow-up. These findings provide evidence to support the value of early and continuous rheumatology care for reducing hospitalizations and ED visits.