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Socioeconomic inequalities in out-of-hours primary care use: an electronic health records linkage study

Jansen, T., Hek, K., Schellevis, F.G., Kunst, A.E., Verheij, R.A. Socioeconomic inequalities in out-of-hours primary care use: an electronic health records linkage study European Journal of Public Health: 2020, 7 p.
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Background: Low socioeconomic position (SEP) is related to higher healthcare use in out-of-hours primary care services (OPCSs). We aimed to determine whether inequalities persist when taking the generally poorer health status of socioeconomically vulnerable individuals into account. To put OPCS use in perspective, this was compared with healthcare use in daytime general practice (DGP).
Methods: Electronic health record (EHR) data of 988 040 patients in 2017 (251 DGPs, 27 OPCSs) from Nivel Primary Care Database were linked to sociodemographic data (Statistics, The Netherlands). We analyzed associations of OPCS and DGP use with SEP (operationalized as patient household income) using multilevel logistic regression. We controlled for demographic characteristics and the presence of chronic diseases. We additionally stratified for chronic disease groups.
Results: An income gradient was observed for OPCS use, with higher probabilities within each lower income group [lowest income, reference highest income group: odds ratio (OR) ¼ 1.48, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.45–1.51]. Income inequalities in DGP use were considerably smaller (lowest income: OR¼1.17, 95% CI: 1.15–1.19). Inequalities in OPCS were more substantial among patients with chronic diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease lowest income: OR¼1.60, 95% CI: 1.53–1.67). The inequalities in DGP use among patients with chronic diseases were similar to the inequalities in the total population. Conclusions: Higher OPCS use suggests that chronically ill patients with lower income had additional healthcare needs that have not been met elsewhere. Our findings fuel the debate how to facilitate adequate primary healthcare in DGP and prevent vulnerable patients from OPCS use.