Medicare reimbursement policy encourages frequent provider visits for patients with ESRD undergoing hemodialysis. We hypothesize that patients seen more frequently by their nephrologist or advanced practitioner within the first 90 days of hemodialysis are more likely to undergo surgery to create an arteriovenous (AV) fistula or place an AV graft. We selected 35,959 patients aged ≥67 years starting hemodialysis in the United States from a national registry. We used multivariable regression to evaluate the associations between mean visit frequency and AV fistula creation or graft placement in the first 90 days of hemodialysis.We conducted an instrumental variable analysis to test the sensitivity of our findings to potential bias from unobserved characteristics. One additional visit per month in the first 90 days of hemodialysis was associated with a 21% increase in the odds of AV fistula creation or graft placement during that period (95% confidence interval, 19% to 24%), corresponding to an average 4.5% increase in absolute probability. An instrumental variable analysis demonstrated similar findings. Excluding visits in months when patients were hospitalized, one additional visit per month was associated with a 10% increase in odds of vascular access surgery (95% confidence interval, 8% to 13%). In conclusion, patients seen more frequently by care providers in the first 90 days of hemodialysis undergo earlier AV fistula creation or graft placement. Payment policies that encourage more frequent visits to patients at key clinical time points may yield more favorable health outcomes than policies that operate irrespective of patients' health status.
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