Research Article: Multimorbidity and healthcare utilization among home care clients with dementia in Ontario, Canada: A retrospective analysis of a population-based cohort

Date Published: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Luke Mondor, Colleen J. Maxwell, David B. Hogan, Susan E. Bronskill, Andrea Gruneir, Natasha E. Lane, Walter P. Wodchis, Carol Brayne

Abstract: BackgroundFor community-dwelling older persons with dementia, the presence of multimorbidity can create complex clinical challenges for both individuals and their physicians, and can contribute to poor outcomes. We quantified the associations between level of multimorbidity (chronic disease burden) and risk of hospitalization and risk of emergency department (ED) visit in a home care cohort with dementia and explored the role of continuity of physician care (COC) in modifying these relationships.Methods and findingsA retrospective cohort study using linked administrative and clinical data from Ontario, Canada, was conducted among 30,112 long-stay home care clients (mean age 83.0 ± 7.7 y) with dementia in 2012. Multivariable Fine–Gray regression models were used to determine associations between level of multimorbidity and 1-y risk of hospitalization and 1-y risk of ED visit, accounting for multiple competing risks (death and long-term care placement). Interaction terms were used to assess potential effect modification by COC.Multimorbidity was highly prevalent, with 35% (n = 10,568) of the cohort having five or more chronic conditions. In multivariable analyses, risk of hospitalization and risk of ED visit increased monotonically with level of multimorbidity: sub-hazards were 88% greater (sub-hazard ratio [sHR] = 1.88, 95% CI: 1.72–2.05, p < 0.001) and 63% greater (sHR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.51–1.77, p < 0.001), respectively, among those with five or more conditions, relative to those with dementia alone or with dementia and one other condition. Low (versus high) COC was associated with an increased risk of both hospitalization and ED visit in age- and sex-adjusted analyses only (sHR = 1.11, 95% CI: 1.07–1.16, p < 0.001, for hospitalization; sHR = 1.07, 95% CI: 1.03–1.11, p = 0.001, for ED visit) but did not modify associations between multimorbidity and outcomes (Wald test for interaction, p = 0.566 for hospitalization and p = 0.637 for ED visit). The main limitations of this study include use of fixed (versus time-varying) covariates and focus on all-cause rather than cause-specific hospitalizations and ED visits, which could potentially inform interventions.ConclusionsOlder adults with dementia and multimorbidity pose a particular challenge for health systems. Findings from this study highlight the need to reshape models of care for this complex population, and to further investigate health system and other factors that may modify patients’ risk of health outcomes.

Partial Text: Dementia (including Alzheimer disease) is a progressively debilitating condition associated with cognitive and functional impairment and behavioral challenges. As a condition affecting primarily older adults [1], most individuals with dementia also have other coexisting chronic conditions, or multimorbidity. This creates complex challenges for clinical care [2]. For example, certain conditions, such as stroke [3] and diabetes [4], have been linked to accelerated cognitive decline. Dementia-related impairments can also hinder a patient’s ability to self-manage concurrent diseases, adhere to therapies, or effectively communicate the signs and symptoms of complications to care providers, which may lead to adverse outcomes [5]. Therefore, common goals for dementia care are to manage coexisting conditions and, where possible, to prevent potentially avoidable care transitions, including hospitalization and institutionalization [6].

This study was approved by the Research Ethics Board of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Toronto, Canada). As we used health information routinely collected in Ontario, informed consent from study participants was not required. The study is reported per RECORD guidelines (S1 Text). The study protocol is available in S2 Text.

We identified 30,112 individuals in Ontario with dementia who had a RAI-HC assessment between January 1 and June 30, 2012. They represented 27.5% of all home care clients otherwise eligible for study inclusion (S3 Table). Table 1 presents characteristics of the study population. The mean age of the study population was 83.0 (standard deviation 7.7) y, 63% were women (n = 19,056), and 88% lived in an urban setting (n = 26,461). Eleven percent of the study population (n = 3,309) was diagnosed with dementia alone (n = 755) or with dementia and one other condition (n = 2,554). A total of 89% (n = 26,804) had two or more conditions in addition to dementia, while 35% (n = 10,568) had five or more comorbid conditions in addition to dementia. The most prevalent comorbid conditions were hypertension (82.4%), osteoarthritis (59.7%), and diabetes (34.4%) (S4 Table). Both proxies for disease severity (MDS-HSI and CHESS) showed greater impairment with higher levels of multimorbidity, while prior healthcare utilization (hospitalizations and ED visits in the past 1 y) increased with increasing number of chronic conditions. Median COC in the population was 0.63. Continuity decreased with each additional level of multimorbidity.

In our investigation of older community residents with dementia receiving home care services in Ontario, Canada, we observed a large burden of comorbid chronic disease in addition to dementia, and this multimorbidity was associated with an increased risk of subsequent hospital admission and ED visit. In multivariable analyses that accounted for competing risks of death and LTC admission, risks of all-cause hospitalization and ED visit both increased monotonically with each additional diagnosis, and were 88% greater and 63% greater, respectively, among those with five or more comorbid conditions relative to those with dementia alone or with dementia and one other condition. In this population, low physician continuity was associated with elevated risk of hospitalization and ED use in age- and sex-adjusted analyses, but not in multivariate models. Contrary to our hypothesis, greater COC did not modify the association between level of multimorbidity and hospitalization or ED visit risk in this older population with dementia.



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