BACKGROUND: Follow-up visits with clinic providers after hospital discharge may not be feasible for some patients due to functional limitations, transportation challenges, need for physical distancing, or fear of exposure especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: The aim of the study was to determine the effects of post-hospital clinic (POSH) and telephone (TPOSH) follow-up provider visits versus no visit on 30-day readmission. We used a retrospective cohort design based on data from 1/1/2017 to 12/31/2019 on adult patients (n = 213,513) discharged home from 15 Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospitals. Completion of POSH or TPOSH provider visits within 7 days of discharge was the exposure and all-cause 30-day inpatient and observation stay readmission was the primary outcome. We used matching weights to balance the groups and Fine-Gray subdistribution hazard model to assess for readmission risk.

RESULTS: Unweighted all-cause 30-day readmission rate was highest for patients who completed a TPOSH (17.3%) followed by no visit (14.2%), non-POSH (evaluation and management visits that were not focused on the hospitalization: 13.6%) and POSH (12.6%) visits. The matching weighted models showed that the effects of POSH and TPOSH visits varied across patient subgroups. For high risk (LACE 11+) medicine patients, both POSH (HR: 0.77, 95% CI: 0.71, 0.85, P < .001) and TPOSH (HR: 0.91, 95% CI: 0.83, 0.99, P = .03) were associated with 23 and 9% lower risk of 30-day readmission, respectively, compared to no visit. For medium to low risk medicine patients (LACE< 11) and all surgical patients regardless of LACE score or age, there were no significant associations for either visit type with risk of 30-day readmission.

CONCLUSIONS: Post-hospital telephone follow-up provider visits had only modest effects on 30-day readmission in high-risk medicine patients compared to clinic visits. It remains to be determined if greater use and comfort with virtual visits by providers and patients as a result of the pandemic might improve the effectiveness of these encounters.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in BMC Health Services Research, v. 21, issue 1, article no. 826.

© The Author(s) 2021

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Kaiser Permanente Southern California to the Care Improvement Research Team (CIRT).

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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to the identifiable nature of the data but may be available in anonymized form from the corresponding author under the following conditions: (1) agreement to collaborate with the study team on all publications, (2) provision of external funding to anonymize the data and for administrative and investigator time necessary for this collaboration, (3) demonstration that the external investigative team is qualified and has documented evidence of training for human subjects protections, and (4) agreement to abide by the terms outlined in data use agreements between institutions.