Disease Severity Is Associated With Higher Healthcare Utilization in Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Medicare Patients

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The American journal of gastroenterology


OBJECTIVES: As the prevalence of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in the elderly population increases, healthcare resource utilization (HCRU) and costs are also predicted to rise substantially.

METHODS: This retrospective, observational cohort study used the Medicare 20% sample data set to evaluate the impact of NASH severity on HCRU and costs over 8 years (2007-2015). The sample included 255,681 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)/NASH: 185,407 (72.5%) with NAFLD/NASH and no further progression to advanced liver disease, 3,454 (1.3%) with compensated cirrhosis (CC), 65,926 (25.8%) with decompensated cirrhosis (DCC), 473 (0.2%) with liver transplant (LT), and 421 (0.2%) with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

RESULTS: Rates of comorbid diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular disease were significantly higher in patients with CC or more severe liver disease compared with NAFLD/NASH and no progression. The annual mean number of all-cause healthcare visits increased from 32.1 for NAFLD/NASH with no progression to 37.3 for CC, 59.8 for DCC, 74.1 for LT, and 59.3 for HCC (P < 0.05). Total annual costs for inpatient, outpatient, physician, and pharmacy services rose from $19,908 in NAFLD/NASH with no progression to $129,276 for LT (P < 0.05). Generalized linear model adjusted for patient characteristics and comorbidities revealed that costs were 1.19, 3.15, 5.02, and 3.33 times significantly higher in patients diagnosed with CC, DCC, LT, or HCC, respectively, compared with NAFLD/NASH and no progression.

DISCUSSION: These results confirm the substantial impact of NASH, particularly more severe disease, on HCRU and costs and identify patients who may benefit from interventions to prevent progression and subsequently reduce HCRU and costs.

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