Admissions for chronic ambulatory care sensitive conditions - a useful measure of potentially preventable admission?

Jo M Longman, Megan E Passey, Dan P Ewald, Elizabeth Rix, Geoffrey G Morgan
BMC Health Services Research 2015, 15: 472

BACKGROUND: Potentially preventable hospital admission (an admission deemed to be potentially preventable given appropriate care in the community-based healthcare setting) has been a topic of international research attention for almost three decades. Recently this has been largely driven by the imperative to reduce ever-increasing unplanned hospital admissions. However, identifying potentially preventable admissions is difficult. As a result, the population level indicator of admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs) has been used as a proxy measure for potentially preventable admission. The adoption of this measure has become common, and in Australia, the rate of admissions for chronic ACSCs is now an important component of measuring health system performance and accountability, and is directly linked to funding. Admission for a chronic ACSC is also used to identify individuals for targeting of interventions to reduce preventable admissions.

DISCUSSION: Hospital admission for chronic ACSCs is a population measure based on admission diagnoses, it therefore should not be used to identify individual preventable admissions. At present we are unable to determine individual admissions that are deemed to be preventable or, therefore, articulate the factors associated with admissions which are preventable. As we are currently unable to identify individual admissions that are preventable, little is understood about the underlying causes and factors contributing to preventable admissions. A means of assessing preventability of individual admissions is required. Only then can we explore the antecedents, and patient and clinician perspectives on preventable admissions. Until we have a clearer understanding of this, our capacity to inform policy and program development remains compromised.

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