Insurance Status and Disparities in Outpatient Care after Traumatic Injuries of the Hand: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2021 Mar 1;147(3):545-554. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000007687.


Background: Hand-injured patients seen in the emergency department can often be followed as outpatients for definitive care and rehabilitation. Many face barriers to continuing care in the outpatient setting that impact quality of care delivery. The authors aimed to evaluate patterns of outpatient follow-up after initial emergency department evaluation of traumatic hand injuries, identify factors associated with poor follow-up, and suggest areas for improvement.

Methods: In this retrospective cohort study, the authors reviewed records of adult patients with acute hand injuries referred for outpatient follow-up after initial plastic surgery consultation in the emergency department of a single urban Level I trauma center over a 12-month period (n = 300). Patients were grouped by insurance (i.e., no insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or private). Outcomes included completion of outpatient follow-up, hand therapy participation, and emergency department return visits.

Results: Factors significantly associated with failure to follow up included male sex (OR, 3.58; 95 percent CI, 1.57 to 8.16), uninsured status (OR, 3.47; 95 percent CI, 1.48 to 8.16), Medicaid insurance (OR, 4.46; 95 percent CI, 1.31 to 15.25), and lack of a driver's license (OR, 3.35; 95 percent CI, 1.53 to 7.34). Hand therapy attendance and unexpected emergency department return visits also varied significantly by insurance type (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: There is a significant disparity in the use of outpatient care after emergency department visits for acute hand injuries. Uninsured and Medicaid-insured patients are significantly less likely to initiate recommended hand specialty follow-up, and significantly less likely to complete follow-up even when established with an outpatient clinic. Future research should evaluate targeted interventions for at-risk patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aftercare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hand Injuries / therapy*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medicaid / statistics & numerical data
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Young Adult