Go to content

Trends in outpatient and inpatient visits for separate ambulatory-care-sensitive conditions during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: a province-based study


Background — The COVID-19 pandemic led to global disruptions in non-urgent health services, affecting health outcomes of individuals with ambulatory-care-sensitive conditions (ACSCs).

Methods — We conducted a province-based study using Ontario health administrative data (Canada) to determine trends in outpatient visits and hospitalization rates (per 100,000 people) in the general adult population for seven ACSCs during the first pandemic year (March 2020–March 2021) compared to previous years (2016–2019), and how disruption in outpatient visits related to acute care use. ACSCs considered were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, angina, congestive heart failure (CHF), hypertension, diabetes, and epilepsy. We used time series auto-regressive integrated moving-average models to compare observed versus projected rates.

Results — Following an initial reduction (March–May 2020) in all types of visits, primary care outpatient visits (combined in-person and virtual) returned to pre-pandemic levels for asthma, angina, hypertension, and diabetes, remained below pre-pandemic levels for COPD, and rose above pre-pandemic levels for CHF (104.8 vs. 96.4, 95% CI: 89.4–104.0) and epilepsy (29.6 vs. 24.7, 95% CI: 22.1–27.5) by the end of the first pandemic year. Specialty visits returned to pre-pandemic levels for COPD, angina, CHF, hypertension, and diabetes, but remained above pre-pandemic levels for asthma (95.4 vs. 79.5, 95% CI: 70.7–89.5) and epilepsy (53.3 vs. 45.6, 95% CI: 41.2–50.5), by the end of the year. Virtual visit rates increased for all ACSCs. Among ACSCs, reductions in hospitalizations were most pronounced for COPD and asthma. CHF-related hospitalizations also decreased, albeit to a lesser extent. For angina, hypertension, diabetes, and epilepsy, hospitalization rates reduced initially, but returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

Conclusion — This study demonstrated variation in outpatient visit trends for different ACSCs in the first pandemic year. No outpatient visit trends resulted in increased hospitalizations for any ACSC; however, reductions in rates of asthma, COPD, and CHF hospitalizations persisted.



Kendzerska T, Zhu DT, Pugliese M, Manuel D, Sadatsafavi M, Povitz M, Stukel TA, To T, Aaron SD, Mulpuru S, Chin M, Kendall CE, Thavorn K, Robillard R, Gershon AS. Front. Public Health. 2023; 11:1251020. Epub 2023 Dec 18.

View Source

Associated Sites