A Preliminary Study of Psychiatric, Familial, and Medical Characteristics of High-utilizing Sickle Cell Disease Patients

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Objectives:To identify demographic, medical, and psychosocial characteristics that distinguished sickle cell disease (SCD) patients who were frequent utilizers of urgent or emergent care resources from low-utilizing patients.Methods:Patients at a large urban comprehensive SCD treatment center were recruited from clinic or during urgent care visits. Participants who were high utilizers, defined as having >4 acute or emergency care visits in the prior 12 months, were compared with patients with more typical utilization patterns on lifetime complications of SCD, family background, psychiatric history, occupational function, coping, depressive symptoms, and personality.Results:High utilizers were nearly a decade younger on average; despite this they had a similar lifetime history of SCD complications. High-utilizing patients’ parents seemed to have greater educational achievement overall. High utilizers reported a nearly 3-fold greater prevalence of psychiatric illness in family members than low utilizers. On other measures, including coping strategies, social support, and personality, the 2 groups were comparable.Discussion:The study strengthens emerging evidence that disease severity, familial factors related to greater parental education, and psychiatric illness are important factors in high care utilization in patients with SCD.

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