Scientists from the University of Virginia found patients with diabetes who participate in a free Annual Wellness Visit covered by Medicare are 36% less likely to need an amputation.
People with diabetes are at higher risk for serious health complications, including blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease, as well as the loss of toes, feet, or legs.
Because complications from diabetes generally cannot be reversed, preventive care is the best way to avoid or delay these complications.
In the study, researchers analyzed data from 2006 to 2015 for patients with Medicare in the “Diabetes Belt,” 644 counties in the southeastern and Appalachian regions of the U.S. with higher rates of diabetes.
The Diabetes Belt includes the state of Mississippi as well as portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Patients living in the Diabetes Belt had 27% greater odds of requiring a lower-extremity amputation compared to residents of counties surrounding the belt.
The researchers found that there were lower rates of diabetes-related foot complications diagnosed in the Diabetes Belt compared with surrounding counties, which may point to delayed diagnoses that can lead to amputations.
They also found the odds of amputation were 36% lower for patients that used their free Annual Wellness Visit that year compared to those who did not attend an Annual Wellness Visit regardless of where they lived.
The results confirmed the hypothesis that Annual Wellness Visits are linked to a reduced risk of major lower-extremity amputations, highlighting the importance of connecting patients to preventive care services.
The team says patients with diabetes who participated in their Annual Wellness Visit may have had their foot complications diagnosed sooner, helping prevent amputations, the researchers believe.
Patients using their Annual Wellness Visits may also be more engaged in their care, the researchers suggest, which may reduce the risk for more serious complications.
Policymakers should prioritize incentives for patients with Medicare to use their annual wellness visits, the researchers conclude, to help reduce diabetes-related amputations.
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The research was presented at the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions and conducted by Jennifer Lobo et al.
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