Identifying subgroups of high-need, high-cost, chronically ill patients in primary care: A latent class analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Segmentation of the high-need, high-cost (HNHC) population is required for reorganizing care to accommodate person-centered, integrated care delivery. Therefore, we aimed to identify and characterize relevant subgroups of the HNHC population in primary care by using demographic, biomedical, and socioeconomic patient characteristics.


This was a retrospective cohort study within a Dutch primary care group, with a follow-up period from September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2017. Chronically ill patients were included in the HNHC population if they belonged to the top 10% of care utilizers and/or suffered from multimorbidity and had an above-average care utilization. In a latent class analysis, forty-one patient characteristics were initially used as potential indicators of heterogeneity in HNHC patients' needs.


Patient data from 12 602 HNHC patients was used. A 4-class model was considered statistically and clinically superior. The classes were named according to the characteristics that were most dominantly present and distinctive between the classes (i.e. mainly age, household position, and source of income). Class 1 ('older adults living with partner') included 39.3% of patients, class 2 ('older adults living alone') included 25.5% of patients, class 3 ('middle-aged, employed adults with family') included 23.3% of patients, and class 4 ('middle-aged adults with social welfare dependency') included 11.9% of patients. Diabetes was the most common condition in all classes; the second most prevalent condition differed between osteoarthritis in class 1 (21.7%) and 2 (23.8%), asthma in class 3 (25.3%), and mood disorders in class 4 (23.1%). Furthermore, while general practitioner (GP) care utilization increased during the follow-up period in the classes of older adults, it remained relatively stable in the middle-aged classes.


Although the HNHC population is heterogeneous, distinct subgroups with relatively homogeneous patterns of mainly demographic and socioeconomic characteristics can be identified. This calls for tailoring care and increased attention for social determinants of health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0228103
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020



Cite this