Impact of relational continuity of primary care in aged care: a systematic review

Suzanne M. Dyer, Jenni Suen, Helena Williams, Maria C. Inacio, Gillian Harvey, David Roder, Steve Wesselingh, Andrew Kellie, Maria Crotty, Gillian E. Caughey

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Abstract

Background: Greater continuity of care has been associated with lower hospital admissions and patient mortality. This systematic review aims to examine the impact of relational continuity between primary care professionals and older people receiving aged care services, in residential or home care settings, on health care resource use and person-centred outcomes. 

Methods: Systematic review of five databases, four trial registries and three grey literature sources to October 2020. Included studies (a) aimed to increase relational continuity with a primary care professional, (b) focused on older people receiving aged care services (c) included a comparator and (d) reported outcomes of health care resource use, quality of life, activities of daily living, mortality, falls or satisfaction. Cochrane Collaboration or Joanna Briggs Institute criteria were used to assess risk of bias and GRADE criteria to rate confidence in evidence and conclusions. 

Results: Heterogeneity in study cohorts, settings and outcome measurement in the five included studies (one randomised) precluded meta-analysis. None examined relational continuity exclusively with non-physician providers. Higher relational continuity with a primary care physician probably reduces hospital admissions (moderate certainty evidence; high versus low continuity hazard ratio (HR) 0.94; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.92–0.96, n = 178,686; incidence rate ratio (IRR) 0.99, 95%CI 0.76–1.27, n = 246) and emergency department (ED) presentations (moderate certainty evidence; high versus low continuity HR 0.90, 95%CI 0.89–0.92, n = 178,686; IRR 0.91, 95%CI 0.72–1.15, n = 246) for older community-dwelling aged care recipients. The benefit of providing on-site primary care for relational continuity in residential settings is uncertain (low certainty evidence, 2 studies, n = 2,468 plus 15 care homes); whilst there are probably lower hospitalisations and may be fewer ED presentations, there may also be an increase in reported mortality and falls. The benefit of general practitioners’ visits during hospital admission is uncertain (very low certainty evidence, 1 study, n = 335). 

Conclusion: Greater relational continuity with a primary care physician probably reduces hospitalisations and ED presentations for community-dwelling aged care recipients, thus policy initiatives that increase continuity may have cost offsets. Further studies of approaches to increase relational continuity of primary care within aged care, particularly in residential settings, are needed. 

Review registration: CRD42021215698.

Original languageEnglish
Article number579
Number of pages18
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Volume22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Aged care
  • General practitioner
  • Hospitalisation
  • Long-term care
  • Primary care
  • Systematic review

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