The literature has demonstrated that the continuity of diabetes care can lower medical service utilization and expenses. However, few studies have examined the effects of patients’ medical care–seeking behaviors in the early stage after the diagnosis of diabetes on their long-term prognoses.
This study aimed to examine the association of medical care–seeking behavior in the first year following diabetes diagnosis on the occurrence of diabetes-related complications among patients in Taiwan. This is a retrospective data collection with follow-up analysis and a nationwide population-based dataset in Taiwan. A total of 89,428 newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus patients during the period from 2000 to 2006 were followed up until 2010. The patients’ medical care–seeking behaviors were classified as follows: high consistency to a physician, high consistency to a medical setting, medium consistency to providers, and low consistency to providers. The occurrence of diabetes-related complications and all-cause mortality were the primary outcomes of this study. Chi-square tests, ANOVAs, and Cox proportional hazard models were applied to examine the relationships between the predictors and medical outcomes.
Compared to the patients with high medical care–seeking consistency to a physician, the multivariate-adjusted hazard ratios of diabetes-related complications occurrence among patients in the high consistency to a medical setting, medium consistency, and low consistency categories were 1.112 (95% CI 1.089–1.136, P < 0.001), 1.226 (95% CI 1.205–1.248, P < 0.001), and 1.536 (95% CI 1.504–1.567, P < 0.001) in outpatient visits and 1.032 (95% CI 0.992–1.074, P = 0.121), 1.056 (95% CI 1.022–1.092, P = 0.001), and 1.208 (95% CI 1.164–1.254, P < 0.001) in complication-incurred hospitalizations, respectively. The monotonic trend was sustained across different strata of age, gender, and disease complexity.
The findings of this study suggest that the incentives of continuity of care and physician–patient relationship management should be reinforced during the early stage of diabetes care in future medical care systems.