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Preventing diabetes complications could save $2.5 billion annually

A new research synthesis from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that the Nation could save nearly $2.5 billion a year by preventing hospitalizations due to severe diabetes complications. Diabetes is an increasingly common chronic disease. Currently, diabetes affects 18 million Americans, or about 6 percent of the population.

Complications associated with diabetes that may require hospitalization include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness, as well as nerve and blood circulation problems that can lead to lower limb amputations. Much of the time, complications can be prevented or delayed with good primary care and patient compliance with the advice from providers. According to the research synthesis:

  • Reducing hospital admissions for diabetes complications could save the Medicare program $1.3 billion annually and Medicaid $386 million a year.
  • Nearly one-third of patients with diabetes were hospitalized two or more times in 2001 for diabetes or related conditions, and their costs averaged three times as high as those for patients with single hospital stays $23,100 versus $8,500.
  • The risk of hospitalization for cardiovascular disease was two to four times as high in women with diabetes as in those who did not have diabetes.
  • African-American, other minority, and poor patients regardless of race or ethnicity were more likely to be hospitalized multiple times for diabetes complications than non-Hispanic white and higher income patients.

Economic and Health Costs of Diabetes, HCUP Highlights Issue No. 1 (AHRQ Publication No. 05-0013) summarizes findings from studies that were based on 2001 data from AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. To access a copy online, go to www.ahrq.gov/data/hcup/highlight1/high1.htm. Print copies are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Editor's Note: Another tool, Diabetes Care Quality Improvement: A Resource Guide for State Action (AHRQ Publication No. 04-0072), and its companion workbook (AHRQ Publication No. 04-0073), were published recently by AHRQ to help State legislators, health departments, diabetes prevention and control programs, and Medicaid officials assess the quality of care for diabetes at the primary care level and develop improvement strategies. The resources, which were developed in partnership with the Council of State Governments, can be found online at www.ahrq.gov/qual/diabqualoc.htm. Print copies are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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