While treating patients (pts) with sickle cell disease (SCD) can be costly, costs are not evenly distributed across pts; rather, a minority of pts accounts for a majority of costs. Identifying those pts who consume a disproportionately large share of healthcare resources can assist payers and providers in directing appropriate and targeted interventions to deliver better pt care with lower costs. The objective of this study was to understand characteristics of pts who have increased utilization of inpatient (IP) and emergency department (ED) resources in a population of SCD pts ≥16 years old.


Medical records of 254 SCD pts ≥16 years old were retrospectively reviewed between 8/2011 and 7/2012 at three US tertiary care centers. The high utilization threshold was derived from the literature and defined as pts with ≥ 5 days of IP+ED care (assuming 1 day/ED visit) for SCD-related complications per year (high utilizer group). Pts were also classified into cohorts based on cumulative blood transfusion units and use iron chelation therapy (ICT): <15 units, no ICT (Cohort 1 [C1]), ≥15 units, no ICT (Cohort 2 [C2]), and ≥15 units, with ICT (Cohort 3 [C3]). SCD complication rates were expressed as the number of SCD complications per pt per year (PPPY); rate ratios (RRs) were used for cohort comparisons. A logistic regression was used to identify risk factors associated with high utilization of IP+ED care.


Of the 254 pts (C1: 69, C2: 91, C3: 94), 30% (n =76) were classified as high utilizers (C1: 14 [18.4%], C2: 37 [48.7%], C3: 25 [32.9%]). Patients in the high utilizer group were younger (median [range] (21 years old [16-65], vs. 23 years old [16-59]) and had shorter follow-up (4.2 years [0.6-23.9], vs. 5.4 years [0.5-33.3]) compared to the rest of the sample. Those in the high utilizer group accounted for 68% of all SCD-related complications and over 88% of all IP+ED days for treatment of these complications. Similar to the rest of the sample, pain (81%) and infection (7%) were the two key complications seen in this high utilizer group. The rate of IP +ED days was significantly higher among the high utilizer group with 16.63 [16.28-16.99] IP+ED days PPPY compared to 0.89 [0.84-0.94] PPPY for other pts. Similarly, the high utilizer group had 4.58 [95% CI: 4.39-4.76] IP+ED visits PPPY, compared to 0.34 [0.31-0.37] visits PPPY for other pts (Table). Among regularly transfused pts (C2+C3) in the high utilizer group, those who received ICT had lower rates of IP+ED visits (C2 vs. C3 rate ratio [RR] [95% CI]: 1.31[1.20-1.44]), IP+ED days (C2 vs. C3 RR: 1.30 [1.24-1.36]), and readmission to IP+ED settings within 30 days (1.70 [1.49-1.93]) compared with those who did not (Table). History of infections (odds ratio: 7.45, p<0.0001) was associated with an increased risk of high utilization of IP+ED care.


Results from this study show that a relatively small fraction of SCD pts account for the majority of IP+ED visits. Moreover, among regularly transfused pts identified as high utilizers, those who received ICT had lower rates of IP+ED utilization than those who did not. Pts receiving ICT may also receive closer monitoring, which may help with early identification and intervention to delay or prevent the development of complications and improve outcomes. Closer management of pts with SCD, especially those at risk of becoming high utilizers, is critical to lowering IP+ED utilization and reducing the overall costs of care.


Jordan:Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation: Consultancy. Adams-Graves:Analysis Group, Inc.: Research Funding. Kanter-Washko:Analysis Group, Inc.: Research Funding. Oneal:Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation: Honoraria; Analysis Group, Inc.: Research Funding. Sasane:Novartis Pharmaceuticals: Employment. Vekeman:Novartis Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding. Bieri:Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation: Research Funding. Marcellari:Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation: Employment. Magestro:Novartis Pharmaceuticals: Employment. Adams:Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation: Research Funding. Duh:Novartis Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.