Analysis of Frequent Attendance in Primary Care

Primary Care is undoubtedly one of the main fields to be considered when dealing with Healthcare. It is essential to know the aspects related to the social profile of patients, or to their clinical data for a correct management and optimization of resources, as well as to design proactive strategies: their condition, the need of diagnosis tests, polymedication, frequency of attendance, etc.

Identifying patterns to divide patients into groups on the basis of healthcare resources needed, and detecting frequent attenders, among others, are basic to improve patient’s care and clinical management.

What is the Analysis of Frequent Attendance in Primary Care?

The Spanish Society of Primary Care Doctors defines “frequent attenders” as patients who attend the General Practitioner consultation 12 times a year or more. However accurate this definition might be, it lacks something. It would be necessary to obtain behaviour patterns from patients and determine the profiles that actually correspond to frequent attenders.

In order to study frequent attendance in Primary Care, retrospective patients’ information —contained in databases from multiple healthcare centres— must be analysed. Usually, the number of covariables for each patient is considerably high, and it requires using machine learning techniques in order to be classified and divided into groups.

The study goes beyond a simple data analysis and allows defining new discriminating variables containing conclusive information to detect whether a patient is a frequent attender or not.

Detecting frequent attenders and being aware of their characteristics is vital to design proactive strategies that decrease global cost per patient, improve management at Primary Care centres and quality of attention paid to patients.

Why invest in Services Analysing Frequent Attendance?

According to figures from The Spanish Society of Primary Care Doctors (SEMERGEN), frequent attenders consume an average of between 8 and 10 times more healthcare resources than the rest of patients in Spain. The challenge for healthcare administrations is to rationalise resources for the population maintaining quality of service and keeping workload for healthcare professionals stable.

It is therefore important to get to know who the frequent attenders are, their typology and symptomatology, the centres receiving a higher density of frequent attenders, etc. All this would lead to manage better their treatment, define new action policies, a better quality of service and lower healthcare costs.

It is basic to improve patient’s care and clinical management.