The benefits of continuity of pediatric care remain controversial.


To determine whether there is an association between having a continuous relationship with a primary care pediatric provider and decreased risk of emergency department (ED) visitation and hospitalization.


Retrospective cohort study.

Setting and Population.

We used claims data from 46 097 pediatric patients enrolled at Group Health Cooperative, a large staff-model health maintenance organization, between January 1, 1993, and December 31, 1998, for our analysis. To be eligible, patients had to have been continuously enrolled for at least a 2-year period or since birth and to have made at least 4 visits to one of the Group Health Cooperative clinics.

Main Exposure Variable.

A continuity of care (COC) index that quantifies the degree to which a patient has experienced continuous care with a provider.

Main Outcome Measures.

ED utilization and hospitalization.


Compared with children with the highest COC, children with medium continuity were more likely to have visited the ED (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.28 [1.20–1.36]) and more likely to be hospitalized (HR: 1.22 [1.09–1.38]). Children with the lowest COC were even more likely to have visited the ED (HR: 1.58 [1.49–1.66]) and to be hospitalized (HR: 1.54 [1.33–1.75]). These risks were even greater for children on Medicaid and those with asthma.


Lower continuity of primary care is associated with higher risk of ED utilization and hospitalization. Efforts to improve and maintain continuity may be warranted.

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