Does Scheduling a Postdischarge Visit with a Primary Care Physician Increase Rates of Follow-up and Decrease Readmissions?
BACKGROUND: Driven in part by Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospitals are focusing on improving the transition from inpatient to outpatient care with particular emphasis on early follow-up with a primary care physician (PCP).
OBJECTIVE: To assess whether the implementation of a scheduling assistance program changes rates of PCP follow-up or readmissions. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.
SETTING: An urban tertiary care center
PATIENTS: A total of 20,918 adult patients hospitalized and discharged home between September 2008 and October 2015.
INTERVENTION: A postdischarge appointment service to facilitate early PCP follow-up.
MAIN MEASURES: Primary outcomes were rates of follow-up visits with a PCP within seven days of discharge and hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge. Our first analysis assessed differences in outcomes among patients with and without the use of the service. In a second analysis, we exploited the fact that the service was not available on weekends and conducted an instrumental variable analysis that used the interaction between the intervention and day of the week of admission.
RESULTS: In our multivariable analysis, use of the appointment service was associated with much higher rates of PCP follow-up (+31.9 percentage points, 95% CI: 30.2, 33.6; P < .01) and a decrease in readmission (−3.8 percentage points, 95% CI: −5.2, −2.4; P < .01). In the instrumental variable analysis, use of the service also increased the likelihood of a PCP follow-up visit (33.4 percentage points, 95% CI: 7.9, 58.9; P = .01) but had no significant impact on readmissions (−2.5 percentage points, 95% CI: −22.0, 17.0; P = .80).
CONCLUSIONS: The postdischarge appointment service resulted in a substantial increase in timely PCP follow-up, but its impact on the readmission rate was less clear.