OBJECTIVE: Diabetes care can be limited by clinical inertia-failure of the provider to intensify therapy when glucose levels are high. Although disease management programs have been proposed as a means to improve diabetes care, there are few studies examining their effectiveness in patient populations that have traditionally been underserved. We examined the impact of our management program in the Grady Diabetes Unit, which provides care primarily to urban African-American patients with type 2 diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We assessed glycemic outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes who had an intake evaluation between 1992 and 1996 and who were identified on the basis of compliance with keeping the recommended number of return visits. For 698 patients, we analyzed changes in HbA1c values between baseline and follow-up visits at 6 and 12 months, and the proportion of patients achieving a target value of < or =7.0% at 12 months. Since a greater emphasis on therapeutic intensification began in 1995, we also compared HbA1c values and clinical management in 1995-1996 with that of 1992-1994. RESULTS: HbA1c averaged 9.3% on presentation. After 12 months of care, HbA1c values averaged 8.2, 8.4, 8.5, 7.7, and 7.3% for the 1992-1996 cohorts, respectively, and were significantly lower compared with values on presentation (P < 0.0025); the average fall in HbA1c was 1.4%. The percentage of patients achieving a target HbA1c < or =7.0% improved progressively from 1993 to 1996, with 57% of the patients attaining this goal in 1996. Mean HbA1c after 12 months was 7.6% in 1995-1996, significantly improved over the level of 8.4% in 1992-1994 (P < 0.0001). HbA1c levels after 12 months of care were lower in 1995-1996 versus 1992-1994, whether patients were managed with diet alone, oral agents, or insulin (P < 0.02). Improved HbA1c in 1995-1996 versus 1992-1994 was associated with increased use of pharmacologic therapy CONCLUSIONS: Structured programs can improve glycemic control in urban African-Americans with diabetes. Self-examination of performance focused on overcoming clinical inertia is essential to progressive upgrading of care.

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