Glucose testing and insufficient follow-up of abnormal results: a cohort study

Kern, Lisa; Callahan, Mark; Brillon, David; Vargas, Maryelena; Mushlin, Alvin

Background: More than 6 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes. Several national organizations endorse screening for diabetes by physicians, but actual practice is poorly understood. Our objectives were to measure the rate, the predictors and the results of glucose testing in primary care, including rates of follow-up for abnormal values.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 301 randomly selected patients with no known diabetes who received care at a large academic general internal medicine practice in New York City. Using medical records, we collected patients' baseline characteristics in 1999 and followed patients through the end of 2002 for all glucose tests ordered. We used multivariate logistic regression to measure associations between diabetes risk factors and the odds of glucose testing.

Results: Three-fourths of patients (78%) had at least 1 glucose test ordered. Patient age (≥45 vs. <45 years), non-white ethnicity, family history of diabetes and having more primary care visits were each independently associated with having at least 1 glucose test ordered (p < 0.05), whereas hypertension and hyperlipidemia were not. Fewer than half of abnormal glucose values were followed up by the patients' physicians.

Conclusion: Although screening for diabetes appears to be common and informed by diabetes risk factors, abnormal values are frequently not followed up. Interventions are needed to trigger identification and further evaluation of abnormal glucose tests.


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BMC Health Services Research

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September 9, 2014