Centro de Salud de Astrabudua (Primary Health Care Center of Astrabudua), Osakidetza (Basque Health Service), Erandio (Bizkaia), Spain; Primary Care Research Unit-Bizkaia, Osakidetza, Bilbao, Spain; and Deusto Business School Health, University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
Healthcare providers are often evaluated by studying variability in their indicators. However, the usefulness of this analysis may be limited if we do not distinguish the variability attributable to health professionals and organizations from that associated with their patients. Our objectives are to describe the main process and outcome indicators of primary healthcare services, analyzing the contribution to variability in these indicators from different levels: individual, health professional, health center, and health district. This is a cross-sectional study that includes all. All the individuals covered by the public Basque Health Service (children [age 0-13], n = 247,493; adults [≥14 years old], n = 1,959,682) over a 12-month period. We calculated the number of visits to primary care doctors, number of referrals, prescription costs, and potentially avoidable hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs). Using multilevel analysis, we determined the percentage of variance attributable to each level. After adjusting for the characteristics of patients (demographic, socioeconomic, and morbidity), doctors (panel size), health center (size, staff satisfaction, demographic structure of the community), and health district, the variance in the indicators was mainly attributable to differences between patients, independently of the attending health professional, the center, or the healthcare organization, both in children (94.21% for visits to the doctor; 96.66% for referrals; 98.57% for prescription costs; 90.02% for potentially avoidable hospitalizations for ACSCs) and in adults (88.10%; 96.26%; 97.92%; and 93.77%, respectively).The limited contribution of health professionals and organizations to variability in indicators should be taken into account when performing evaluations and planning quality improvement strategies.
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