Objectives: To determine differences in health status, quality of care, and resource utilization among older diabetic Medicare patients cared for by endocrinologists, internists, family practitioners, and general practitioners.
Methods: The authors analyzed 1,637 patients with diabetes age 65 years or older in the 1994 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, a database that links patient surveys to 12 months of Medicare claims data.
Measures: Measures of morbidity were Basic and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, health perception, Charlson Comorbidity Index score, and diabetic complications. Quality of care markers were measurement of ophthalmologic visit, lipid testing, glycosylated hemoglobin measurement, mammography, influenza vaccination, early hospital readmission, outpatient follow-up, and patient satisfaction. Resource utilization included reimbursement, relative value units, physician and emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. Age, gender, race, and education were adjusted for in multivariable analyses.
Results: Compared with patients of family practitioners, patients of endocrinologists and internists had more comorbidity and diabetic complications but similar health perception and deficiencies in activities of daily living. The patients of endocrinologists also had higher utilization of ophthalmologic screening, lipid testing, and glycosylated hemoglobin measurement than the patients of generalist physicians, but similar rates of influenza vaccination. Patients of endocrinologists and internists had higher total reimbursement than those of family practitioners and general practitioners. Patient satisfaction was generally similar.
Conclusions: Older diabetic patients of endocrinologists had higher utilization of diabetes-specific process of care measures and had similar functional status despite more diabetic complications. However, they received a more costly style of care than patients of family practitioners and general practitioners. Future work needs to explore the optimal coordination of care of diabetic patients among different health providers.