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Trends in Care Practices and Outcomes Among Medicare Beneficiaries with Diabetes

      Background

      While diabetes is a major issue for the aging U.S. population, few studies have described the recent trends in both preventive care practices and complications among the Medicare population with diabetes. Using the Medicare Quality Monitoring System (MQMS), this 2004 study describes these trends from 1992 to 2001 and how these rates vary across demographic subgroups.

      Methods

      Outcomes include age- and gender-adjusted rates of 15 indicators associated with diabetes care from 1992 to 2001, the absolute change in rates from 1992 to 2001, and 2001 rates by demographic subgroups. The data were cross-sectional samples of Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes from 1992 to 2001 from the Medicare 5% Standard Analytic Files.

      Results

      Use of preventive care practices rose from 1992 to 2001: 45 percentage points for HbA1c tests, 51 for lipid tests, 8 for eye exams, and 38 for self-monitoring of glucose levels (all p<0.05). Rates for short-term and some long-term complications of diabetes (e.g., lower-extremity amputations and cardiovascular conditions) fell from 1992 to 2001 (p<0.05). However, rates of other long-term complications such as nephropathy, blindness, and retinopathy rose during the period (p<0.05). Nonwhites and beneficiaries aged <65 and >85 exhibited consistently higher complication rates and lower use of preventive services.

      Conclusions

      The Medicare program has seen some significant improvement in preventive care practices and significant declines in lower-limb amputations and cardiovascular conditions. However, rates for other long-term complications have increased, with evidence of subgroup disparities. The MQMS results provide an early warning for policymakers to focus on the diabetes care provided to some vulnerable subgroups.
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