Study finds that 23 percent of diabetes treatment cost is avoidable

An analysis of more than 16,000 diabetes patients has concluded that the majority experienced at least one potentially avoidable complication.  The additional cost of treating these patients represents almost 23 percent of the cost of treating diabetes, according to the authors of the study, Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

The authors believe the results illustrate the value of using analytics on patient data, supporting the objectives of population health initiatives to identify opportunities for improving treatment while lowering cost.

"When health care leaders can zero in on where unnecessary costs are coming from, and identify which are caused by potentially avoidable complications, they're in a great position to start making changes that are going to be better for patients' physical and financial health," says François de Brantes, coauthor of the study and executive director of Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute.

According to the authors, 9.3 percent of the US population, or 29.1 million Americans, had diabetes in 2012.  It is estimated that 1 out of 3 people can be expected to develop the disease in their lifetime.

The study looked at administrative claims data for nearly 10,000 adults with diabetes who had commercial insurance, and close to 7,000 who had Medicaid coverage. The analysis compared the cost of "typical" care with costs associated with potentially avoidable complications such as skin infections, acute pancreatitis and amputations. It is believed that the complications could have been controlled by clinicians, avoiding many of the complications.

The majority of diabetes patients were found to experience at least one potentially avoidable complication, with a cost averaging  $1,043 per year for patients with private insurance and $1,869 for those with Medicaid.

The authors extrapolated the data to the national population and concluded there is potential for $6.5 billion dollars to be solved in the US on an annualized basis for patients covered by private insurance and $10.3 billion for patients covered by  Medicaid.

"Without the spotlight on problem areas, there's no progress," said de Brantes. "Data insights make it possible to alter payment models so they reward excellence, or to modify some clinical practices."

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