Objective: More than 100,000 people are hospitalized annually in the U.S. with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Outcome differences have not been examined for these patients based on whether their primary care provider is a generalist or a diabetes specialist. The objective of this study was to investigate hospital charges and hospital length of stay (LOS) for patients with DKA according to the specialty of their primary care provider.
Research design and methods: We investigated all patients with a primary diagnosis of DKA during a 3.5-year period (n = 260) in a large urban teaching hospital. Hospital charges and LOS were studied regarding the specialty of the primary care provider. Demographic factors, severity of illness, laboratory data, and readmission rates were compared.
Results: Patients cared for by generalists and endocrinologists had a similar case mix and severity of DKA. The age-adjusted mean LOS for patients of generalists was 4.9 days (95% CI 4.5-5.4), and the mean LOS for patients of endocrinologists was 3.3 days (2.6-4.2) (P < 0.0043). Mean hospital charges differed (P < 0.0001) with an age- and sex-adjusted mean for patients of endocrinologists of $5,463 ($4,179-7,141) and a mean for patients of generalists of $10,109 ($9,151-11,166). The additional charges incurred by generalists were due in part to patients undergoing more procedures. No differences in diabetes-related complications occurred during admission, but the endocrinologist-treated group had a lower readmission rate for DKA during the study period than the generalist-treated group (2 vs. 6%, respectively) (P = 0.03).
Conclusions: Endocrinologists provide more cost-effective care than generalists do when serving as primary care providers for patients hospitalized with DKA.