Background: Poor and minority children with Type 1 diabetes mellitus are at increased risk of severe adverse outcomes as a result of their disease. However, little is known about the quality of care that these children receive and which factors are associated with better quality of care.
Objectives: Our objectives were as follows: 1) to describe the utilization of services associated with quality of care for children with Type 1 diabetes mellitus who are covered by Medicaid and 2) to test the hypothesis that increased continuity of primary care is associated with better care for these children.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Methods: Washington State Medicaid claims data for 1997 were used to determine what proportion of children with diabetes had 1) an inpatient or outpatient diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), 2) a glycosylated hemoglobin (HgA1c) level that had been checked, 3) a retinal examination, and 4) thyroid function studies. Continuity of care was quantified using a pre-established index.
Results: Two hundred fifty-two eligible patients were identified. During the observation year, 20% had an outpatient diagnosis of DKA, 6% were admitted with DKA, 43% visited an ophthalmologist, 54% had their HgA1c checked, and 21% had their thyroid function assessed. Children with high continuity of care were less likely to have DKA as an outpatient (0.30 [0.13-0.71]). Children with medium continuity of care and high continuity of care were less likely to be hospitalized for DKA (0.22 [0.05-0.87] and 0.14 [0.03-0.67], respectively). For preventive services utilization, high continuity of care was associated only with an increased likelihood of visiting an ophthalmologist (2.80 [1.08-3.88]).
Conclusions: The quality of care for Medicaid children with diabetes can be substantially improved. Low continuity of primary care is an identifiable risk factor for DKA.