Ethnic Differences in Appointment Keeping Affect Health of Diabetes Patients

By Laura Kennedy, Contributing Writer
Research Source: Health Services Research
Health Behavior News Service

  • Among patients with diabetes, Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to miss scheduled primary care appointments than Filipinos, Asians or Caucasians, according to a new study.
  • Patients who often miss primary care appointments have poorer control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Providing same-day appointments to increase convenience and access may lead to more missed appointments for chronic disease maintenance, especially for Latinos and African Americans.

Ethnic differences in appointment keeping may be an important factor in poor health outcomes among some minority patients with diabetes, according to a new study.

The researchers reviewed survey data and medical records for nearly 13,000 participants in the NIH-funded Diabetes Study of Northern California (DISTANCE) and found that some minority groups missed scheduled primary care appointments twice as often as others, even after accounting for many health and demographic factors. Latinos and African-Americans had the lowest rates of appointment keeping Asians had the highest, with Filipinos and Caucasians falling in between.

The study also found that patients who often miss appointments were at increased risk for poorer control of blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Additionally, the study showed that these groups  tended to rely more heavily on same-day visits. This is the first study to evaluate primary care usage in a large, ethnically diverse group of diabetes patients with uniform access to health care. The findings have important implications for health care systems as they increase “open access” to care through same-day appointments, which may not provide the same level of chronic care management as planned visits, even when the appointment is with one’s own primary care provider.

“Providing greater convenience for patients may impact ethnic groups differently and perpetuate disparities in unexpected ways,” says lead author Melissa Parker, M.S., of Kaiser Permanente in California. The study appears in the current issue of Health Services Research.  Read Full Article