Background: With high-quality community-based primary care, hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) are considered avoidable. The purpose of this study was to test the inter-physician reliability of judgments of avoidable hospitalizations for one ACSC, uncomplicated hypertension, derived from medical chart review. Methods: We applied the Canadian Institute for Health Information's case definition to obtain a random sample of patients who had an ACSC hospitalization for uncomplicated hypertension in Calgary, Alberta. Medical chart review was conducted by three experienced internal medicine specialists. Implicit methods were used to judge avoidability of hospitalization using a validated 5-point scale. Results: There was poor agreement among three physicians raters when judging the avoidability of 82 ACSC hospitalizations for uncomplicated hypertension (κ = 0.092). The κ also remained low when assessing agreement between raters 1 and 3 (κ = 0.092), but the κ was lower (less than chance agreement) for raters 1 and 2 (κ = -0.119) and raters 2 and 3 (κ = -0.008). When the 5-point scale was dichotomized, there was fair agreement among three raters (κ = 0.217). The proportion of ACSC hospitalizations for uncomplicated hypertension that were rated as avoidable was 32.9%, 6.1% and 26.8% for raters 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Conclusions: This study found a low proportion of ACSC hospitalization were rated as avoidable, with poor to fair agreement of judgment between physician raters. This suggests that the validity and utility of this health indicator is questionable. It points to a need to abandon the use of ACSC entirely; or alternatively to work on the development of explicit criteria for judging avoidability of hospitalization for ACSC such as hypertension.
- Ambulatory care sensitive conditions
- Avoidable hospitalizations
- Primary care
- Quality indicator