Staged diabetes management should permit glycemic goals to be attained in a timely manner, but the success of such an approach requires conformity by health care providers. To test performance, we analyzed the adherence of practitioners to a protocol for staged management of NIDDM patients.
Records of patients treated at the Grady Memorial Hospital Diabetes Clinic were reviewed retrospectively over a 3-year period. For each patient, intensification of therapy was indicated if fasting plasma glucose was > 7.8 mmol/l and a prior HbA1c was > 7.0%. Protocols dictated a progression from dietary therapy alone to increasing dosages of sulfonylureas to increasing dosages of insulin. Patients were seen at bimonthly intervals.
During the 3-year period, 1,051 patient visits met protocol criteria for intensification. Adherence to the protocol improved significantly in the 3rd year compared with the first 2 years (30, 31, and 47% adherence in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years, respectively). Patients treated with diet alone were significantly less likely to have their therapy intensified than patients on sulfonylureas or insulin (intensification rates 25, 41, and 47%, respectively). In the management of patients treated with diet alone, practitioners were reluctant to intensify therapy at early visits, but were more likely to do so later, 19% of patients beyond goal range at the 2-month visit were started on pharmacological therapy vs. 28% at the 4-month visit, and 39% at the 6-month visit (P < 0.01). In contrast, there was no significant difference in the frequency of therapy intensification between early and late visits for patients on sulfonylureas or insulin. Practitioners appeared to base the decision to intensify on the fasting plasma glucose level more than on the most recent HbA1c. Age did not appear to be a significant factor in the decision to intensify.
Although staged management protocols constitute critical tools to achieve glycemic goals, the adherence of health care providers may be suboptimal. Special efforts may be needed to assure compliance.