Objective: The population of persons with mental disorders is potentially vulnerable to poor quality of medical care. This study examined the relationship between mental disorders and quality of diabetes care in a national sample of veterans.
Method: Chart-abstracted quality data were merged with outpatient and inpatient administrative database records for a sample of veterans with diabetes who had at least three outpatient visits in the previous year (N=38,020). Mental health diagnoses were identified by use of the administrative data. Quality of diabetes care was assessed with five indicators by chart documentation: annual foot inspection, pedal pulses examination, foot sensory examination, retina examination, and glycated hemoglobin determination.
Results: Approximately a quarter of the sample had a diagnosed mental disorder (23.7% with psychiatric disorder only, 1.3% with substance use disorder only, and 2.6% with a dual diagnosis). Overall rates of receipt for the indicators were higher than national benchmarks for all patient subgroups, ranging from 70.8% for retina examination to 95.0% for foot inspection. Rates for both retina examination and foot sensory examination differed significantly by mental health status, mainly because of lower rates among those with a substance use disorder. The associations remained significant in multivariate generalized estimating equation analyses that controlled for demographic characteristics, health status, use of medical services, and hospital-level characteristics.
Conclusions: Rates for secondary prevention of diabetes were remarkably high at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, although patients with mental disorders (particularly substance use disorders) were somewhat less likely to receive some of the recommended interventions.