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Is frequent attendance of longer duration related to less transient episodes of care? A retrospective analysis of transient and chronic episodes of care

13 Dec 2016


Frequent attenders (FAs) suffer more and consult general practitioners (GPs) more often for chronic physical and psychiatric illnesses, social difficulties and distress than non-FAs. However, it is unclear to what extent FAs present transient episodes of care (TECs) compared with non-FAs.


Retrospective analysis of all episodes of care (ECs) in 15 116 consultations in 1 year. Reasons for encounter (RFEs) linked to patients’ problem lists were defined as chronic ECs (CECs), other episodes as TECs.


1 Dutch urban primary healthcare centre served by 5 GPs.


All 5712 adult patients were enlisted between 2007 and 2009. FAs were patients whose attendance rate ranked within the top decile of their sex and age group in at least one of the years between 2007 and 2009.

Outcome measures

Number of RFEs linked to TECs/CECs for non-FAs and 1-year (1yFAs), 2-year (2yFAs) and 3-year FAs (3yFAs), and the adjusted effect of frequent attendance of different duration on the number of TECs.


The average number of RFEs linked to TECs (non-FAs 1.4; 3yFAs 7.3) and to CECs (non-FAs 0.9; 3yFAs 6.2) increased substantially with the duration of frequent attendance. The ratio of TECs to all ECs differed little for FAs (52–54%) and non-FAs (64%). Compared with non-FAs, the adjusted additional number of TECs was 3.4 (95% CI 3.2 to 3.7, 1yFAs), 6.6 (95% CI 6.1 to 7.0, 2yFAs) and 9.4 (95% CI 8.8 to 10.1, 3yFAs).


FAs present more TECs and CECs with longer duration of frequent attendance. The constant ratio of TECs might be a sign of a low threshold for FAs to consult their GP. The large numbers of TECs in FAs might be associated with their high level of anxiety and low mastery. The consultation pattern of FAs may best be characterised by describing both TECs and CECs.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open