Claims-based measures of continuity of care have non-linear associations with health: data linkage study

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Bich Tran Michael Falster Louisa Jorm
Published online: Dec 4, 2018


Background
Continuity of care (CoC) is considered a central element of good primary care and is often measured using medical claims data. Possible values of CoC depend on the number of claims which is related to health status. This study investigated the relationships between CoC and health status and risk of emergency hospitalisation.


Methods
Health insurance claims for consultations with general practitioners (GPs) in the 24 months following entry to the 45 and Up Study were used to calculate usual provider continuity (UPC) and the Continuity of Care Index (CoC Index). Relationships of CoC with number of claims, self-rated health and emergency hospitalisation were investigated using descriptive statistics and logistic regression models.


Results
Both measures of CoC were strongly related to number of claims and to measures of health status, which were in turn highly associated. Multivariable logistic regression models showed a weak positive relationship between CoC and odds of emergency hospitalisation for those with CoC less than 1, while individuals with perfect CoC had significantly lower odds of hospitalisation compared to all other categories of CoC. However, analyses stratified by, or adjusting for, number of claims showed no clear associations between CoC and risk of hospitalisation.


Conclusions
The pattern of association between CoC categories and emergency hospitalisation was non-linear and was confounded by the effect of number of claims. Future studies should apply caution in using claims-based measures of CoC as a continuous variable or employing an arbitrary cut-point, and should adjust for number of claims.


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