Objective: We sought to determine the frequency and costs of hospitalization and to assess possible racial/ethnic disparities in a large cohort of low-income patients with diabetes who had received primary care at municipal health clinics.
Methods: Administrative data from Philadelphia Health Care Centers were linked with discharge data from Pennsylvania hospitals for March 1993 through December 2001. We tested differences in hospitalization rates and mean hospital charges by age, gender, and race/ethnicity.
Results: A total of 18,800 patients with diabetes experienced 30,528 hospital admissions, for a hospitalization rate of 0.35 per person-year. Rates rose with age and with the interaction of male gender and age. Rates for non-Hispanic Whites were higher than those for African Americans, whereas those for Hispanics, Asian Americans, and "others" were lower. Patients who were hospitalized at least 5 times made up 10.5% of the study population and accounted for 64% of hospital admissions and hospital charges in this cohort.
Conclusions: Hospitalization rates for this low-income cohort with access to primary care and pharmacy services were comparable to those of other diabetic patient populations, suggesting that reducing financial barriers to care may have benefited these patients. A subgroup of patients with multiple hospitalizations accounted for the majority of hospital admissions.