Primary Care and Health Outcomes Among Older Patients with Diabetes

As health reform expands access to insurance coverage and to health care, many are concerned that an overloaded health system will mean longer waiting times for people who need care.

Using data from the Veterans Health Administration (VA), previous researchers had found that geriatric patients who had to wait a month or more had a significant probability of being hospitalized for something that could have been prevented with high quality outpatient care.

These researchers used retrospective data in the elderly population and focused on people with diabetes. They hypothesize that longer primary care wait times would lead to less use of primary care services and poor health outcomes.

Veterans who visited VA facilities with longer primary care wait times did have significantly lower primary care utilization compared with veterans who visited VA facilities with shorter primary care wait times. For veterans age 70 or older and diagnosed with selected conditions (congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, valvular disease, peripheral vascular disease, renal failure, or obesity) longer wait times increased the risk of experiencing a poor health care outcome. However, waiting longer for care did not compromise long-term health outcomes for people with diabetes, and for those under 70 years old without the selected conditions.