Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

What weekday? How acute? An analysis of reported planned and unplanned GP visits by older multi‐morbid patients in the Patient Journey Record System database

Journal Article

Abstract

Rationale, aims and objectives

Timely access to general practitioner (GP) care is a recognized strategy to address avoidable hospitalization. Little is known about patients seeking planned (decided ahead) and unplanned (decided on day) GP visits. The Patient Journey Record System (PaJR) provides a biopsychosocial real‐time monitoring and support service to chronically ill and older people over 65 who may be at risk of an avoidable hospital admission. This study aims to describe reported profiles associated with planned and unplanned GP visits during the week in the PaJR database of regular outbound phone calls made by Care Guides to multi‐morbid older patients.

Methods

One hundred fifty consecutive patients with one or more chronic condition (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart/vascular disease, heart failure and/or diabetes), one or more hospital admission in previous year, and consecutively recruited from hospital discharge, out‐of‐hour care and GP practices comprised the study sample. Using a semistructured script, Care Guides telephoned the patients approximately every 3 week days, and entered call data into the PaJR database in 2011. The PaJR project identified and prompted unplanned visits according to its algorithms. Logistic regression modelling and descriptive statistics identified significant predictors of planned and unplanned visits and patterns of GP visits on weekdays reported in calls.

Results

In 5096 telephone calls, unplanned versus planned GP visits were predicted by change in health state, significant symptom concerns, poor self‐rated health, bodily pain and concerns about caregiver or intimates. Calls not reporting visits had significantly fewer of these features. Planned visits were associated with general and medication concerns, reduced social participation and feeling down. Planned visits were highest on Monday and trended downwards to Fridays. Unplanned visits were reported at the same rate each weekday and more frequently when the interval between calls was ≥3 days. The PaJR project Care Guides advised patients to make unplanned visits in 6.3% of calls and advised planned GP visits in 2.5% of calls.

Conclusion

Unplanned GP visits consistently indicated a significant change to worse health with planned visits presenting less acuity in this study of older multi‐morbid patients in general practice, when monitored by regular calls at about every 3 days. The PaJR study actively prompted GP visits according to its algorithms. Assessing and predicting acuity in older multi‐morbid patients appears to be a promising strategy to improve access to primary care, and thus to reducing avoidable hospital utilization. Further research is needed to investigate the topic on a wider scale.

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