Despite the challenges patients face in managing multiple chronic conditions, new research suggests that the presence of one or more chronic conditions is actually an advantage when it comes to receiving recommended preventive care. This finding, according to researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, means that "modern primary care practices can effectively deliver preventive services to the growing number of patients with multiple chronic illnesses."
For the study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, researchers analyzed the records of 667,379 adult patients from 148 primary care practices across the United States for connections between the presence of 24 chronic illnesses and 10 preventive services. As patients' number of chronic conditions increased from zero to five, so too did their likelihood of being up-to-date with preventive services, explained Science Codex. This trend plateaued in patients with five or more chronic conditions.
"This finding is in contrast to oft-expressed concerns that increasing patient complexity (defined as having more than one chronic illness) impedes the delivery of preventive services because of competing demands," the authors wrote. "Our findings persisted even after adjustment for age and encounter frequency, suggesting that it is something in the nature of the care provided to these patients that accounted for the finding of increased attention to prevention."
The reasons for the relationship were unclear, according to the authors, although they noted that most of the practices studied had participated in quality-improvement research projects that emphasized the importance of evidence-based care, team care and electronic health record decision reports. Notably, almost all eligible patients had a blood pressure recorded in their EHR, for example, while three-quarters of those patients were up-to-date with their glucose and cholesterol screenings.