Density of Patient-Sharing Networks: Impact on the Value of Parkinson Care

Document Type : Original Article


1 Radboud University Medical Center, Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

2 Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

3 Department of Neurology, Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

4 Center of Expertise for Parkinson & Movement Disorders, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

5 Department of Intelligent Systems, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands


Optimal care for Parkinson’s disease (PD) requires coordination and collaboration between providers within a complex care network. Individual patients have personalised networks of their own providers, creating a unique informal network of providers who treat (‘share’) the same patient. These ‘patient-sharing networks’ differ in density, ie, the number of identical patients they share. Denser patient-sharing networks might reflect better care provision, since providers who share many patients might have made efforts to improve their mutual care delivery. We evaluated whether the density of these patient-sharing networks affects patient outcomes and costs.
We analysed medical claims data from all PD patients in the Netherlands between 2012 and 2016. We focused on seven professional disciplines that are commonly involved in Parkinson care. We calculated for each patient the density score: the average number of patients that each patient’s providers shared. Density scores could range from 1.00 (which might reflect poor collaboration) to 83.00 (which might reflect better collaboration). This score was also calculated at the hospital level by averaging the scores for all patients belonging to a specific hospital. Using logistic and linear regression analyses we estimated the relationship between density scores and health outcomes, healthcare utilization, and healthcare costs.
The average density score varied considerably (average 6.7, SD 8.2). Adjusted for confounders, higher density scores were associated with a lower risk of PD-related complications (odds ratio [OR]: 0.901; P < .001) and with lower healthcare costs (coefficients: -0.018, P = .005). Higher density scores were associated with more frequent involvement of neurologists (coefficient 0.068), physiotherapists (coefficient 0.052) and occupational therapists (coefficient 0.048) (P values all <.001).
Patient sharing networks showed large variations in density, which appears unwanted as denser networks are associated with better outcomes and lower costs.


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Volume 11, Issue 7
July 2022
Pages 1132-1139
  • Receive Date: 10 August 2020
  • Revise Date: 03 December 2020
  • Accept Date: 13 February 2021
  • First Publish Date: 03 March 2021