To document the quality of diabetes care provided to patients in a large health maintenance organization (HMO) from 1 January 1993 to 1 January 1994 and compare it to the standards of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).


To meet a Health Plan and Employer Data Information Set (HEDIS) requirement, a major HMO in California identified 14,539 members with diabetes and randomly selected 384 individuals for review. Charts were available on 353 of these patients, and after obtaining the information for the HEDIS review, additional information was extracted from the charts by an outside chart reviewer. This data set was used for an analysis of the quality of diabetic care provided by the participating medical groups to these HMO members during 1 year. Documentation of follow-up and measures of glycemic and lipid control was examined both for absolute values and for the frequency of measurement over the year. These results were compared to the ADA standards of care.


Although patients averaged 4.5 visits to their primary care physicians (PCPs) over the year, 21% had one or fewer visits per year. Glycated hemoglobin levels were not documented in 56% of patients (ADA recommends two to four measurements per year), and of those with a glycated hemoglobin level measured. 39% had at least one value ≥ 10%. Fasting plasma glucose concentrations were not documented in 65% of patients (four to six per year recommended). Foot exams (which should be performed at each regular visit) were not documented for 94% of patients. Urine protein measurements were not performed in 52% of patients. Additionally, many patients had elevated and untreated lipid abnormalities.


In spite of the frequency of PCP visits during the year for many of these patients, diabetes management was inadequate. This lack of adequate preventive care will lead to an increased risk of the development of the acute and chronic complications of diabetes, creating an even greater future burden on the health care system and negative consequences for patients.

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