Patients with alcohol misuse are less likely to receive preventive health services but more likely to utilize emergency health services. However, the association between alcohol misuse and outpatient follow-up after hospitalization is unknown and may depend on whether a patient experiences a critical illness. We sought to determine whether alcohol misuse was associated with lower rates of outpatient follow-up after hospital discharge and whether the magnitude of this association differed in patients who experienced a critical illness.
Materials and methods
This was a retrospective cohort study using administrative data from an urban safety net hospital. Patients were included if they were admitted between 2011 and 2015, were between the ages of 18 and 89, resided within the safety net county, were discharged home, and were at moderate to high risk for hospital readmission within the subsequent 30 days. Alcohol misuse was identified using a combination of ICD-9 codes and response to a single screening question. The primary outcome was a combined measure of follow-up with a primary care physician or specialist provider in the 30 days following hospital discharge. Multivariable logistic regression was used to adjust for factors known to be associated with healthcare utilization.
Overall, 17,575 patients were included in the analysis; 4984 (28%) had alcohol misuse. In the 30 days following hospital discharge, 46% of patients saw any outpatient provider. In an unadjusted analysis, the association between alcohol misuse and attending any outpatient follow-up was dependent on whether patients had a critical illness (p value < 0.0001) with the highest rates of follow-up in survivors of critical illness without alcohol misuse (53%, 95% CI 51%, 55%) followed by patients without alcohol misuse or critical illness (49%; 95% CI 48%, 50%), patients with alcohol misuse without critical illness (38%; 95% CI 36%, 39%), and patients with alcohol misuse and a critical illness (37%; 95% CI 35%, 40%). Adjusting for factors associated with healthcare utilization, these findings were modestly attenuated but unchanged.
Patients with alcohol misuse who are at moderate to high risk for hospital readmission may benefit from targeted interventions to increase rates of outpatient follow-up after hospital discharge.