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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

North Texas: New Study Links Preventable Diabetes Hospitalizations to Underlying Behavioral Health

A new study by University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) School of Public Health researchers points to important information that may help health care providers, policymakers and insurance payers reduce the risk of preventable hospitalizations for diabetes patients by providing insight into the relationship between these hospitalizations and behavioral health conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and drug or alcohol abuse.

“An estimated 30.3 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes, which accounted for about $237 billion in direct medical costs in 2017,” said Dr. Erica Stockbridge, assistant professor of health behavior and health systems at the UNTHSC School of Public Health, and lead author of a new PLOS ONE article. “Costs for diabetes patients are approximately 2.3 times higher than for other patients, often from complications that could be prevented through timely, high-quality, ongoing outpatient care.”

To analyze the impact of mental health conditions and substance use disorders on these types of potentially preventable hospitalizations, the researchers reviewed the medical and pharmacy claims data of 229,039 commercially insured, working age persons with diabetes from across the U.S. In total, 3,246 of those persons experienced 4,521 preventable hospitalizations between 2011 and 2013.

Those with a co-occurring behavioral health condition were at disproportionately high risk; the 20.8% identified with both diabetes and behavioral health conditions experienced 43.6 percent of all diabetes preventable hospitalizations.

Those with depression, drug use disorder and multiple behavioral health conditions were at greatest risk for recurring admissions, emphasizing the importance of looking at the patient’s total health picture, rather than each mental or physical health concern separately.