Health Services Research & Development

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Chang AY, Askari M, Fan J, Heidenreich PA, Michael Ho P, Mahaffey KW, Ullal AJ, Perino AC, Turakhia MP. Association of Healthcare Plan with atrial fibrillation prescription patterns. Clinical Cardiology. 2018 Sep 22; 41(9):1136-1143.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is treated by many types of physician specialists, including primary care physicians (PCPs). Health plans have different policies for how patients encounter these providers, and these may affect selection of AF treatment strategy. HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that healthcare plans with PCP-gatekeeping to specialist access may be associated with different pharmacologic treatments for AF. METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study using a commercial pharmaceutical claims database. We utilized logistic regression models to compare odds of prescription of oral anticoagulant (OAC), non-vitamin K-dependent oral anticoagulant (NOAC), rate control, and rhythm control medications used to treat AF between patients with PCP-gated healthcare plans (eg, HMO, EPO, POS) and patients with non-PCP-gated healthcare plans (eg, PPO, CHDP, HDHP, comprehensive) between 2007 and 2012. We also calculated median time to receipt of therapy within 90 days of index AF diagnosis. RESULTS: We found similar odds of OAC prescription at 90 days following new AF diagnosis in patients with PCP-gated plans compared to those with non-PCP-gated plans (OR: OAC 1.01, P = 0.84; warfarin 1.05, P = 0.08). Relative odds were similar for rate control (1.17, P < 0.01) and rhythm control agents (0.93, P = 0.03). However, PCP-gated plan patients had slightly lower likelihood of being prescribed NOACs (0.82, P = 0.001) than non-gated plan patients. Elapsed time until receipt of medication was similar between PCP-gated and non-gated groups across drug classes. CONCLUSIONS: Pharmaceutical claims data do not suggest that PCP-gatekeeping by healthcare plans is a structural barrier to AF therapy, although it was associated with lower use of NOACs.