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Medicare's Free Wellness Visit Can Prevent Diabetes Amputation

MONDAY, June 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Annual wellness visits covered by Medicare reduce diabetes patients' risk of amputation by more than one-third, a new study finds.

"Our results confirmed our hypothesis that Annual Wellness Visits are associated with a reduced risk of major lower-extremity amputations, highlighting the importance of connecting patients to preventive care services," study author Jennifer Lobo said in a University of Virginia news release. She's a researcher in the university's Department of Public Health Sciences.

Lobo and her colleagues analyzed 2006-2015 data on Medicare recipients in the so-called "Diabetes Belt:" 644 U.S. counties in the South and Mid-Atlantic states with elevated rates of diabetes.

States in the Diabetes Belt include Mississippi as well as portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

People in the Diabetes Belt had a 27% greater risk of lower-extremity amputation than those in counties surrounding the belt, the study found.

No matter where they lived, the risk of amputation was 36% lower for Medicare recipients who went to their free annual wellness visit than among those skipped it, according to findings recently presented at an American Diabetes Association meeting, in New Orleans.

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The lower risk of amputations among patients who had their annual wellness visit may owe to several factors, researchers said.

Those folks may receive earlier diagnosis of diabetes-related foot complications that can lead to amputation. They may also be more engaged in their care, which may reduce the risk for serious complications.

The authors also found that Black Americans had significantly higher rates of diabetes-related amputations than white folks, both inside and outside the Diabetes Belt.

That shows the need for measures such as increased education or the use of patient navigators that guide patients through the health care system to help Black patients with diabetes get the preventive care they need, according to the researchers.

More information

There's more on diabetes foot complications at the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCE: University of Virginia, news release, June 15, 2022

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