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Continuity of care in the ambulatory sector and hospital admissions among patients with heart failure in Germany

Authors/Editors: Vogt, V.
Koller, D.
Sundmacher, L.
Publication Date: 2016
Type of Publication: Articles in Refereed Journals (International)
erschienen in: European Journal of Public Health



Heart failure is one of the most cost-intensive chronic diseases and the most common cause of hospitalisation. More than 60% of the treatment costs of heart failure are incurred in the inpatient sector in Germany. However, hospital admissions due to heart failure are considered to be potentially avoidable through effective and continuous ambulatory care. Our aim is to examine whether continuity in ambulatory care is associated with hospitalisations due to heart failure.


Using insurance claims data from Germany’s biggest statutory health insurance company, we defined three measures of continuity of care: Continuity of Care Index (COCI), Usual Provider Index (UPC) and the Sequential Continuity Index (SECON). We analyzed whether these measures are associated with hospitalization due to heart failure using separate logistic regression models. We controlled for a wide range of covariates such as sex, age and the Charlson comorbidity index.


Data of 382 118 heart failure patients were included in the analyses. Index values range from 0.77 to 0.89. Results of logistic regression analyses indicate that the continuity indices COCI, UPC and SECON based on visits to general practitioners (GPs), cardiologists and internists are negatively associated with the probability of hospitalization whereas of the continuity indices based on GP visits only SECON is significantly associated with hospitalization.


The results indicate that the overall continuity in the ambulatory sector is high for heart failure patients in Germany. Public policy should, nevertheless, focus on increasing sequential continuity of specialist and generalist ambulatory care as this was found to be significantly associated with a reduced likelihood of hospitalization.

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