Medicaid Patients With Heart Failure Get Poor Follow-Up After Hospital Discharge

Diana Swift

June 08, 2023

Nearly 60% of Medicaid-covered adults with concurrent diabetes and heart failure did not receive guideline-concordant postdischarge care within 7-10 days of leaving the hospital, according to a large Alabama study. Moreover, affected Black and Hispanic/other Alabamians were less likely than were their White counterparts to receive recommended postdischarge care.

In comparison with White participants, Black and Hispanic adults were less likely to have any postdischarge ambulatory care visits after HF hospitalization or had a delayed visit, according to researchers led by Yulia Khodneva, MD, PhD, an internist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "This is likely a reflection of a structural racism and implicit bias against racial and ethnic minorities that persists in the U.S. health care system," she and her colleagues wrote.

The findings point to the need for strategies to improve access to postdischarge care for lower-income HF patients.

Among U.S. states, Alabama is the sixth-poorest, the third in diabetes prevalence (14%), and has the highest rates of heart failure hospitalizations and cardiovascular mortality, the authors noted.

Study details

The cohort included 9,857 adults with diabetes and first hospitalizations for heart failure who were covered by Alabama Medicaid during 2010-2019. The investigators analyzed patients' claims for ambulatory care (any, primary, cardiology, or endocrinology) within 60 days of discharge.

The mean age of participants was 53.7 years; 47.3% were Black; 41.8% non-Hispanic White; and 10.9% Hispanic/other, with other including those identifying as non-White Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian. About two-thirds (65.4%) of participants were women.

Analysis revealed low rates of follow-up care after hospital discharge; 26.7% had an ambulatory visit within 0-7 days, 15.2% within 8-14 days, 31.3% within 15-60 days, and 26.8% had no follow-up visit at all. Of those having a follow-up visit, 71% saw a primary care physician and 12% saw a cardiologist.

In contrast, a much higher proportion of heart failure patients in a Swedish registry – 63% – received ambulatory follow-up in cardiology.

Ethnic/gender/age disparities

Black and Hispanic/other adults were less likely to have any postdischarge ambulatory visit (P <.0001) or had the visit delayed by 1.8 days (P = .0006) and 2.8 days (P = .0016), respectively. They were less likely to see a primary care physician than were non-Hispanic White adults: adjusted incidence rate ratio, 0.96 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.91-1.00) and 0.91 (95% CI, 0.89-0.98), respectively.

Men and those with longer-standing heart failure were less likely to be seen in primary care, while the presence of multiple comorbidities was associated with a higher likelihood of a postdischarge primary care visit. Men were more likely to be seen by a cardiologist, while older discharged patients were less likely to be seen by an endocrinologist within 60 days. There was a U-shaped relationship between the timing of the first postdischarge ambulatory visit and all-cause mortality among adults with diabetes and heart failure. Higher rates of 60-day all-cause mortality were observed both in those who had seen a provider within 0-7 days after discharge and in those who had not seen any provider during the 60-day study period compared with those having an ambulatory care visit within 7-14 or 15-60 days. "The group with early follow-up (0-7 days) likely represents a sicker population of patients with heart failure with more comorbidity burden and higher overall health care use, including readmissions, as was demonstrated in our analysis," Dr. Khodneva and associates wrote. "Interventions that improve access to postdischarge ambulatory care for low-income patients with diabetes and heart failure and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities may be warranted," they added.

This study was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Diabetes Research Center. Dr. Khodneva reported funding from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Forge Ahead Center as well as from the NIDDK, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Alabama Medicaid Agency. Coauthor Emily Levitan, ScD, reported research funding from Amgen and has served on Amgen advisory boards. She has also served as a scientific consultant for a research project funded by Novartis.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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