This study profiled health care utilization by disabled and nondisabled individuals in the Canadian province of Manitoba to evaluate the association between health care utilization and disability.
Age-standardized annualized utilization rates were calculated according to sex using longitudinal data on individual encounters with the Manitoba health care system from 1983 to 1990. Associations between severity of disability, number of prior chronic conditions, and prospective utilization were examined using multivariate regressions.
Utilization patterns of the mildly disabled and the nondisabled differed only slightly. Severely disabled individuals had much higher rates of contact and consumed more resources, even after controlling for chronic conditions. The severely disabled accounted for 3% of the population and consumed 16% of hospital days and 7% of physician costs annually.
The findings emphasize the importance of incorporating measures of disability in health services research. Both the severity of disability and the number of chronic conditions had independent value in predicting health care utilization. This has important implications for data collection and for the allocation of health care resources for research, which has traditionally been targeted toward fatal chronic conditions.