Hospital Utilization for Injection Drug Use-Related Soft Tissue Infections in Urban Versus Rural Counties in California

Published in: Journal of Urban Health, v. 83, no. 2, Mar. 2006, p. 176-181

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Keith G. Heinzerling, David A. Etzioni, Brian Hurley, Paul Holtom, Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Steven M. Asch

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Drug related-soft tissue infections (DR-STIs) are a significant source of hospital utilization in inner-city urban areas where injection drug use is common but the magnitude of hospital utilization for DR-STIs outside of inner-city urban areas is not known. The authors described the magnitude and characteristics of hospital utilization for DR-STIs in urban versus rural counties in California. All discharges from all nonfederal hospitals in California in 2000 with ICD-9 codes for a soft tissue infection and for drug dependence/abuse were abstracted from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development discharge database. There were 4,152 DR-STI discharges in 2000 from hospitals in 49 of California's 58 counties. Residents of 12 large metropolitan counties accounted for 3,598 discharges (87% of total). The majority of DR-STI discharges were from urban safety net hospitals with county indigent programs and Medicaid as the expected payment source and opiate related discharge diagnoses. Hospital utilization for DR-STIs in California is highest in large urban metropolitan counties, although DR-STI discharges are widespread. Increased access to harm reduction services and drug treatment may reduce government health care expenditures by preventing unnecessary hospital utilization for DR-STIs.

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