Open Access Research article

Comparing potentially avoidable hospitalization rates related to ambulatory care sensitive conditions in Switzerland: the need to refine the definition of health conditions and to adjust for population health status

Yves Eggli1*, Béatrice Desquins1, Erol Seker1 and Patricia Halfon2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health Economics and Management, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne (Faculty of Business and Economics and Faculty of Biology and Medicine), Route de Chavannes 31, CH-1015, Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne (Faculty of Biology and Medicine), Route de la Corniche 10, 1010, Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-25

Published: 20 January 2014



Regional rates of hospitalization for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) are used to compare the availability and quality of ambulatory care but the risk adjustment for population health status is often minimal. The objectives of the study was to examine the impact of more extensive risk adjustment on regional comparisons and to investigate the relationship between various area-level factors and the properly adjusted rates.


Our study is an observational study based on routine data of 2 million anonymous insured in 26 Swiss cantons followed over one or two years. A binomial negative regression was modeled with increasingly detailed information on health status (age and gender only, inpatient diagnoses, outpatient conditions inferred from dispensed drugs and frequency of physician visits). Hospitalizations for ACSC were identified from principal diagnoses detecting 19 conditions, with an updated list of ICD-10 diagnostic codes. Co-morbidities and surgical procedures were used as exclusion criteria to improve the specificity of the detection of potentially avoidable hospitalizations. The impact of the adjustment approaches was measured by changes in the standardized ratios calculated with and without other data besides age and gender.


25% of cases identified by inpatient main diagnoses were removed by applying exclusion criteria. Cantonal ACSC hospitalizations rates varied from to 1.4 to 8.9 per 1,000 insured, per year. Morbidity inferred from diagnoses and drugs dramatically increased the predictive performance, the greatest effect found for conditions linked to an ACSC. More visits were associated with fewer PAH although very high users were at greater risk and subjects who had not consulted at negligible risk. By maximizing health status adjustment, two thirds of the cantons changed their adjusted ratio by more than 10 percent. Cantonal variations remained substantial but unexplained by supply or demand.


Additional adjustment for health status is required when using ACSC to monitor ambulatory care. Drug-inferred morbidities are a promising approach.

Quality assessment; Ambulatory care; Morbidity adjustment; Potentially avoidable hospitalizations