Concentration of Costs Among High Utilizers of Health Care Services Over the First 10 Years After Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation: A Population-based Study

James S. Krause, David Murday, Elizabeth Corley, Nicole D. DiPiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to (1) categorize individuals into high, medium, and low utilizers of health care services over a 10-year period after the onset of spinal cord injury (SCI) and (2) identify the pattern of causes of hospitalizations and the characteristics associated with high utilization. Design: Retrospective analysis of self-report assessment linked to administrative data. Setting: Data were collected from participants living in and utilizing hospitals in the state of South Carolina. Participants: Adult participants with traumatic SCI were identified through a state SCI Surveillance System Registry, a population-based system capturing all incident cases treated in nonfederal facilities. Among 963 participants who completed self-report assessments, we matched those with a minimum of 10 years of administrative records for a final sample of 303 participants (N=303). Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Costs related to health care utilization for emergency department visits and hospitalizations, as measured operationally by hospital charges at full and established rates; causes of hospitalizations Results: Over two-thirds of the total $49.4 million in charges for hospitalization over the 10-year timeframe (69%) occurred among 16.5% of the cohort (high utilizers), whereas those in the low utilizer group comprised 53% of the cohort with only 3.5% of the charges. The primary diagnoses were septicemia (50%), other urinary tract disorder (48%), mechanical complication of device, implant, or graft (48%), and chronic ulcer of skin (40%). Primary diagnoses were frequently accompanied by secondary diagnoses, indicating the co-occurrence of multiple secondary health conditions. High utilizers were more likely to be male, minority, have a severe SCI, have reported frequent pressure ulcers and have income of less than $35,000 per year. Conclusions: The high cost of chronic health care utilization over a 10-year timeframe was concentrated in a relatively small portion of the SCI population who have survived more than a decade after SCI onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care costs
  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation

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