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Frequent Attenders of Three Outpatient Health Care Schemes in Finland: Characteristics and Association With Long-Term Sickness Absences, 2016-2018

Julkaistu 6.5.2021



Frequent attenders (FAs) impose a significant burden on service capacity and public health funding. Although the characteristics of the group and their risk for sickness absences (SA) have been studied, an understanding of FAs in different health care schemes is lacking. The aim of the study was to investigate FAs and their SA risk in the working-age population in public care, occupational health services (OHS) and private care schemes. The average number of SA days was also examined by diagnostic group.

Setting and participants

Register data on the use of outpatient health care, sickness allowance spells and background characteristics (2015–2018) for 25–64 year old residents of the city of Oulu, Finland, (n = 91,737) were used. Subjects were categorized into non-attenders, non-frequent attenders and FAs (top decile of attenders) both for all outpatient health care and specifically for each care scheme in 2016. The number of sickness absence days was measured yearly in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The data were analyzed with descriptive methods and negative binomial regression models.


FAs consumed 31 to 44% of all visits depending on scheme in 2016. Frequent attendance was common among low socioeconomic groups in the public scheme, among lower non-manual employees and manual workers in OHS, and among entrepreneurs in the private scheme. FAs had a higher average number of SA days than others in each scheme, although group differences decreased from 2016 to 2017 and 2018. In public care, the adjusted effect of frequent attendance was strong especially for SA due to mental disorders (adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR] for FAs 13.40), and in OHS for SA due to musculoskeletal disorders (adjusted IRR for FAs 8.68).


In each outpatient health care scheme, frequent attenders pose a great challenge both by consuming services and through their increased risk of disability. FAs in different schemes have partially different characteristics and risks. Common patient registers covering various service schemes would enable an identification of FAs visiting multiple schemes and services. Better coordinated services are needed for public care FAs in particular.

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Riku Perhoniemi, Jenni Blomgren

Lisätietoja julkaisusta

  • Vertaisarvioitu: kyllä.
  • Avoin saatavuus: kyllä.
  • Koko viite: Perhoniemi, R., & Blomgren, J. (2021). Frequent attenders of three outpatient health care schemes in Finland: characteristics and association with long-term sickness absences, 2016-2018. BMC public health, 21(1), 870.

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