Background: Identifying and engaging excessive alcohol users in primary care may be an effective way to improve patient health outcomes, reduce alcohol-related acute care events, and lower costs. Little is known about what structures of primary care team communication are associated with alcohol-related patient outcomes. Methods: Using a sociometric survey of primary care clinic communication, this study evaluated the relation between team communication networks and alcohol-related utilization of care and costs. Between May 2013 and December 2013, a total of 155 healthcare employees at 6 primary care clinics participated in a survey on team communication. Three-level hierarchical modeling evaluated the link between connectedness within the care team and the number of alcohol-related emergency department visits, hospital days, and associated medical care costs in the past 12months for each team's primary care patient panel. Results: Teams (n=31) whose registered nurses displayed more strong (at least daily) face-to-face ties and strong (at least daily) electronic communication ties had 10% fewer alcohol-related hospital days (rate ratio [RR]=0.90; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.84, 0.97). Furthermore, in an average team size of 19, each additional team member with strong interaction ties across the whole team was associated with $1,030 (95% CI: -$1,819, -$241) lower alcohol-related patient healthcare costs per 1,000 team patients in the past 12months. Conversely, teams whose primary care practitioner (PCP) had more strong face-to-face communication ties and more weak (weekly or several times a week) electronic communication ties had 12% more alcohol-related hospital days (RR=1.12; 95% CI: 1.03, 1.23) and $1,428 (95% CI: $378, $2,478) higher alcohol-related healthcare costs per 1,000 patients in the past 12months. The analyses controlled for patient age, gender, insurance, and comorbidity diagnoses. Conclusions: Excessive alcohol-using patients may fair better if cared for by teams whose face-to-face and electronic communication networks include more team members and whose communication to the PCP has been streamlined to fewer team members.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health