Characterization of high healthcare utilizer groups using administrative data from an electronic medical record database

Ng, Sheryl H.; Rahman, Nabilah; Ang, Ian Y. H.; Sridharan, Srinath; Ramachandran, Sravan; Wang, Debby D.; Tan, Chuen S.; Toh, Sue-Anne; Tan, Xin Q.

High utilizers (HUs) are a small group of patients who impose a disproportionately high burden on the healthcare system due to their elevated resource use. Identification of persistent HUs is pertinent as interventions have not been effective due to regression to the mean in majority of patients. This study will use cost and utilization metrics to segment a hospital-based patient population into HU groups.

The index visit for each adult patient to an Academic Medical Centre in Singapore during 2006 to 2012 was identified. Cost, length of stay (LOS) and number of specialist outpatient clinic (SOC) visits within 1 year following the index visit were extracted and aggregated. Patients were HUs if they exceeded the 90th percentile of any metric, and Non-HU otherwise. Seven different HU groups and a Non-HU group were constructed. The groups were described in terms of cost and utilization patterns, socio-demographic information, multi-morbidity scores and medical history. Logistic regression compared the groups’ persistence as a HU in any group into the subsequent year, adjusting for socio-demographic information and diagnosis history.

A total of 388,162 patients above the age of 21 were included in the study. Cost-LOS-SOC HUs had the highest multi-morbidity and persistence into the second year. Common conditions among Cost-LOS and Cost-LOS-SOC HUs were cardiovascular disease, acute cerebrovascular disease and pneumonia, while most LOS and LOS-SOC HUs were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition. Regression analyses revealed that HUs across all groups were more likely to persist compared to Non-HUs, with stronger relationships seen in groups with high SOC utilization. Similar trends remained after further adjustment.

HUs of healthcare services are a diverse group and can be further segmented into different subgroups based on cost and utilization patterns. Segmentation by these metrics revealed differences in socio-demographic characteristics, disease profile and persistence. Most HUs did not persist in their high utilization, and high SOC users should be prioritized for further longitudinal analyses. Segmentation will enable policy makers to better identify the diverse needs of patients, detect gaps in current care and focus their efforts in delivering care relevant and tailored to each segment.

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BMC Health Services Research

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Published Here
September 22, 2023


Healthcare, Utilization, Segmentation, Super-utilizers, Cost, Expenditure, Administrative, Persistence