Assessing Impacts on Unplanned Hospitalisations of Care Quality and Access Using a Structural Equation Method: With a Case Study of Diabetes.
Int J Environ Res Public Health
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BACKGROUND: Enhanced quality of care and improved access are central to effective primary care management of long term conditions. However, research evidence is inconclusive in establishing a link between quality of primary care, or access, and adverse outcomes, such as unplanned hospitalisation. METHODS: This paper proposes a structural equation model for quality and access as latent variables affecting adverse outcomes, such as unplanned hospitalisations. In a case study application, quality of care (QOC) is defined in relation to diabetes, and the aim is to assess impacts of care quality and access on unplanned hospital admissions for diabetes, while allowing also for socio-economic deprivation, diabetes morbidity, and supply effects. The study involves 90 general practitioner (GP) practices in two London Clinical Commissioning Groups, using clinical quality of care indicators, and patient survey data on perceived access. RESULTS: As a single predictor, quality of care has a significant negative impact on emergency admissions, and this significant effect remains when socio-economic deprivation and morbidity are allowed. In a full structural equation model including access, the probability that QOC negatively impacts on unplanned admissions exceeds 0.9. Furthermore, poor access is linked to deprivation, diminished QOC, and larger list sizes. CONCLUSIONS: Using a Bayesian inference methodology, the evidence from the analysis is weighted towards negative impacts of higher primary care quality and improved access on unplanned admissions. The methodology of the paper is potentially applicable to other long term conditions, and relevant when care quality and access cannot be measured directly and are better regarded as latent variables.