Visualizing complex healthcare disparities: proof of concept for representing a cyclical continuum of care model for a retrospective cohort of patients with musculoskeletal infections. Academic Article uri icon


  • Care continuum models (also known as care cascade models) are used by researchers and health system planners to identify potential gaps or disparities in healthcare, but these models have limited applications to complex or chronic clinical conditions. Cyclical continuum models that integrate more complex clinical information and that are displayed using circular data visualization tools may help to overcome these limitations. We performed proof-of-concept cyclical continuum modeling for one such group of conditions-musculoskeletal infections-and assessed for racial and ethnic disparities across the complex care process related to these infections.Cyclical continuum modeling was performed in a diverse, retrospective cohort of 1648 patients with musculoskeletal infections, including osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, and/or infectious myositis, in the University of New Mexico Health System. Logistic regression was used to estimate the relative odds of each element or outcome of care in the continuum. Results were visualized using circularized, map-like images depicting the continuum of care.Racial and ethnic disparities differed at various phases in the care process. Hispanic/Latinx patients had evidence of healthcare disparities across the continuum, including diabetes mellitus [odds ratio (OR) 2.04, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.61, 2.60 compared to a white non-Hispanic reference category]; osteomyelitis (OR 1.28, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.63); and amputation (OR 1.48; 95% CI: 1.10, 2.00). Native American patients had evidence of disparities early in the continuum (diabetes mellitus OR 3.59, 95% CI: 2.63, 4.89; peripheral vascular disease OR 2.50; 95% CI: 1.45, 4.30; osteomyelitis OR 1.43; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.95) yet lower odds of later-stage complications (amputation OR 1.02; 95% CI: 0.69, 1.52). African American/Black non-Hispanic patients had higher odds of primary risk factors (diabetes mellitus OR 2.70; 95% CI: 1.41, 5.19; peripheral vascular disease OR 4.96; 95% CI: 2.06, 11.94) and later-stage outcomes (amputation OR 2.74; 95% CI: 1.38, 5.45) but not intervening, secondary risk factors (osteomyelitis OR 0.79; 95% CI: 0.42, 1.48).By identifying different structural and clinical barriers to care that may be experienced by groups of patients interacting with the healthcare system, cyclical continuum modeling may be useful for the study of healthcare disparities.

publication date

  • May 2021