In the Netherlands, community-dwelling older people with primary care emergency problems contact the General Practitioner Cooperative (GPC) after hours. However, frailty remains an often unobserved hazard with adverse health outcomes. The aim of this study was to provide insight into differences between older persons with or without GPC emergency care visits (reference group) regarding frailty and healthcare use.
A cross-sectional descriptive study design was based on data from the public data repository of The Older Persons and Informal Caregivers Survey Minimum Dataset (TOPICS-MDS). Frailty in older persons (65+ years, n = 32,149) was measured by comorbidity, functional and psychosocial aspects, quality of life and a frailty index. Furthermore, home care use and hospital admissions of older persons were identified. We performed multilevel logistic and linear regression analyses. A random intercept model was utilised to test differences between groups, and adjustment factors (confounders) were used in the multilevel analysis.
Compared to the reference group, older persons with GPC contact were frailer in the domain of comorbidity (mean difference 0.52; 95% CI 0.47-0.57, p < 0.0001) and functional limitations (mean difference 0.53; 95% CI 0.46-0.60, p < 0.0001), and they reported less emotional wellbeing (mean difference - 4.10; 95% CI -4.59- -3.60, p < 0.0001) and experienced a lower quality of life (mean difference - 0.057; 95% CI -0.064- -0.050, p < 0.0001). Moreover, older persons more often reported limited social functioning (OR = 1.50; 95% CI 1.39-1.62, p < 0.0001) and limited perceived health (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.39-1.62, p < 0.0001). Finally, older persons with GPC contact more often used home care (OR = 1.37; 95% CI 1.28-1.47, p < 0.0001) or were more often admitted to the hospital (OR = 2.88; 95% CI 2.71-3.06, p < 0.0001).
Older persons with out-of-hours GPC contact for an emergency care visit were significantly frailer in all domains and more likely to use home care or to be admitted to the hospital compared to the reference group. Potentially frail older persons seemed to require adequate identification of frailty and support (e.g., advanced care planning) both before and after a contact with the out-of-hours GPC.