The study aims to analyze the relationship between care integration and care quality, and to examine if the relationship varies by patient risk.
Data Sources and Study Setting
The key independent variables used validated measures derived from a provider survey of functional (i.e., administrative and clinical systems) and social (i.e., patient integration, professional cooperation, professional coordination) integration. Survey responses represented data from a stratified sample of 59 practice sites from 17 health systems. Dependent variables included three quality measures constructed from patient-level Medicare data: colorectal cancer screening among patients at risk, patient-level 30-day readmission, and a practice-level Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) composite measure of publicly reported, individual measures of ambulatory clinical quality performance.
Data Collection/Extraction Method
We obtained quality- and beneficiary-level covariate data for the 41,966 Medicare beneficiaries served by the 59 practices in our survey sample.
We estimated hierarchical linear models to examine the association between care integration and care quality and the moderating effect of patients’ clinical risk score. We graphically visualized the moderating effects at ±1 standard deviation of our z-standardized independent and moderating variables and performed simple slope tests.
Our analyses uncovered a strong positive relationship between social integration, specifically patient integration, and the quality of care a patient receives (e.g., a 1-point increase in a practice’s patient integration was associated with 0.31-point higher HEDIS composite score, p < 0.01). Further, we documented positive and significant associations between aspects of social and functional integration on quality of care based on patient risk.
The findings suggest social integration matters for improving the quality of care and that the relationship of integration to quality is not uniform for all patients. Policymakers and practitioners considering structural integrations of health systems should direct attention beyond structure to consider the potential for social integration to impact outcomes and how that might be achieved.