Patients with a history of asthma-related hospitalizations are at high risk of readmission and generally consume a large amount of health-care resources. It is not clear if the secondary care provided by specialists after an episode of asthma-related hospitalization is associated with better outcomes compared with the primary care provided by general practitioners.
Using population-based administrative health data from the province of British Columbia, Canada, we created a propensity-score-matched cohort of individuals who received primary vs secondary care in the 60 days after discharge from asthma-related hospitalization. Total direct asthma-related medical costs (primary outcome) and health service use and measures of medication adherence (secondary outcomes) were compared for the next 12 months.
Two thousand eighty-eight individuals were equally matched between the primary and secondary care groups. There was no difference in the direct asthma-related costs (difference $567; 95% CI, −$276 to $1,410) and rate of readmission (rate ratio [RR] = 1.06; 95% CI, 0.85-1.32) between the secondary and the primary care groups. Patients under secondary care had a higher rate of asthma-related outpatient service use (RR = 1.22; 95% CI, 1.11-1.35) but a lower rate of short-acting β-agonist dispensation (RR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85-0.98). The proportion of days covered with a controller medication was higher among the secondary care group (difference of 3.2%; 95% CI, 0.4%-6.0%).
Compared with those who received only primary care, patients who received secondary care showed evidence of more appropriate treatment. Nevertheless, there were no differences in the costs or the risk of readmission. Adherence to asthma medication in both groups was poor, indicating the need for raising the quality of care provided by generalists and specialists alike.