Does a policy that requires adherence to a regular primary care physician improve the actual adherence of patients?

A. Golan-Cohen*, G. Blumberg, E. Merzon, E. Kitai, Y. Fogelman, A. Shipotovsky, S. Vinker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Continuity of care by the same personal physician is a key factor in an effective and efficient health care system. Studies that support the association between high adherence and better outcomes were done in settings where allocation to the same physician was a long-term policy. Objectives: To evaluate the influence that changing organizational policy from the free choice of a primary care physician to a mandatory continuity of care by the same physician has on adherence to a personal physician. Methods: A cross-sectional study based on electronic databases; comparison of adherence and demographic characteristics (sex, age, and socio-economic status) of 208,286 Leumit enrollees who met the inclusion criteria, according to change in the adherence to a personal physician. To evaluate adherence, we used the Usual Provider of Care (UPC) index, which measures the number of visits made to the personal doctor out of the total primary care physician visits over the same period. The patients were divided into groups according to their UPC level. Results: The data shows that 54.5% of the patients were high adherers even before the organizational change; these rates are similar to those published by various organizations worldwide, years after mandating continuity of care by the same physician. In the year following the intervention, only 34.5% of the patients changed the level of their adherence group. Of these, 64% made a shift to a higher adherence group. Before the intervention, the high adherers were older (mean age 57.8 vs. 49.3 years in the low adherers group) and from a higher SES (mean SES status 9.32 vs. 8.71). After the intervention, a higher proportion of older patients and patients from a higher SES changed their adherence to a higher group. Sex distribution was similar over all the adherence level groups and did not change after the intervention. Conclusions and policy implications: A policy change that encouraged adherence to an allocated primary care physician managed to improve adherence only in specific groups. Health organizations need to examine the potential for change and the groups they want to influence and direct their investment wisely. Trial registration: retrospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Adherence
  • Continuity of care
  • Personal physician
  • Usual provider of care

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