Despite the heightened awareness of diabetes as a major health problem, evidence on the impact of assistance and organizational factors, as well as of adherence to recommended care guidelines, on morbidity and mortality in diabetes is scanty. We identified diabetic residents in Torino, Italy, as of 1st January 2002, using multiple independent data sources. We collected data on several laboratory tests and specialist medical examinations to compare primary versus specialty care management of diabetes and the fulfillment of a quality-of-care indicator based on existing screening guidelines (GCI). Then, we performed regression analyses to identify associations of these factors with mortality and cardiovascular morbidity over a 4 year- follow-up. Patients with the lowest degree of quality of care (i.e. only cared for by primary care and with no fulfillment of GCI) had worse RRs for all-cause (1.72 [95% CI 1.57–1.89]), cardiovascular (1.74 [95% CI 1.50–2.01]) and cancer (1.35 [95% CI 1.14–1.61]) mortality, compared with those with the highest quality of care. They also showed increased RRs for incidence of major cardiovascular events up to 2.03 (95% CI 1.26–3.28) for lower extremity amputations. Receiving specialist care itself increased survival, but was far more effective when combined with the fulfillment of GCI. Throughout the whole set of analysis, implementation of guidelines emerged as a strong modifier of prognosis. We conclude that management of diabetic patients with a pathway based on both primary and specialist care is associated with a favorable impact on all-cause mortality and CV incidence, provided that guidelines are implemented.
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