During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic (pH1N1), the proportion of outpatient visits to emergency departments, clinics and hospitals became elevated especially during the early months of the pandemic due to surges in sick, ‘worried well’ or returning patients seeking care. We determined the prevalence of return visits to a multispecialty clinic during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and identify subgroups at risk for return visits using model-based recursive partitioning.
This was a retrospective analysis of ILI-related medical care visits to multispecialty clinic in Houston, Texas obtained as part of the Houston Health Department Influenza Sentinel Surveillance Project (ISSP) during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza (April 2009 – April 2010). The data comprised of 2680 individuals who made a total of 2960 clinic visits. Return visit was defined as any visit following the index visit after the wash-out phase prior to the study period. We applied nominal logistic regression and recursive partition models to determine the independent predictors and the response probabilities of return visits. The sensitivity and specificity of the outcomes probabilities was determined using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve.
Overall, 4.56% (Prob. 0.0%-17.5%) of the cohort had return visits with significant variations observed attributed to age group (76.0%) and type of vaccine received by patients (18.4%) and Influenza A (pH1N1) test result (5.6%). Patients in age group 0-4 years were 9 times (aOR: 8.77, 95%CI: 3.39-29.95, p<0.0001) more likely than those who were 50+ years to have return visits. Similarly, patients who received either seasonal flu (aOR: 1.59, 95% CI 1.01-2.50, p=0.047) or pH1N1 (aOR: 1.74, 95%CI: 1.09-2.75, p=0.022) vaccines were about twice more likely to have return visits compared to those with no vaccination history. Model-based recursive partitioning yielded 19 splits with patients in subgroup I (patients of age group 0-4 years, who tested positive for pH1N1, and received both seasonal flu and pH1N1 vaccines) having the highest risk of return visits (Prob.=17.5%). The area under the curve (AUC) for both return and non-return visits was 72.9%, indicating a fairly accurate classification of the two groups.
Return visits in our cohort was more prevalent among children and young adults and those that received either seasonal flu or pH1N1 or both vaccines. Understanding the dynamics in care-seeking behavior during pandemic would assist policymakers with appropriate resource allocation, and in the design of initiatives aimed at mitigating surges and recurrent utilization of the healthcare system.
Keywords: Model-based recursive partitioning, subgroup analysis, Influenza-like-illness, H1N1, influenza pandemic, care-seeking behavior, return visit