How well do patients' assessments of their diabetes self-management correlate with actual glycemic control and receipt of recommended diabetes services?

Michele Heisler, Dylan M Smith, Rodney A Hayward, Sarah L Krein, Eve A Kerr
Diabetes Care 2003, 26 (3): 738-43

OBJECTIVE: Although patient diabetes self-management is a key determinant of health outcomes, there is little evidence on whether patients' own assessments of their self-management correlates with glycemic control and key aspects of high-quality diabetes care. We explored these associations in a nationwide sample of Veterans' Affairs (VA) patients with diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We abstracted information on achieved level of glycemic control (HbA(1c)) and diabetes processes of care (receipt of HbA(1c) test, eye examination, and nephropathy screen) from medical records of 1032 diabetic patients who received care from 21 VA facilities and had answered the Diabetes Quality Improvement Program survey in 2000. The survey included sociodemographic measures and a five-item scale assessing the patients' diabetes self-management (medication use, blood glucose monitoring, diet, exercise, and foot care [alpha = 0.68]). Using multivariable regression, we examined the associations of patients' reported self-management with HbA(1c) level and receipt of each diabetes process of care. We adjusted for diabetes severity and comorbidities, insulin use, age, ethnicity, income, education, use of VA services, and clustering at the facility level.

RESULTS: Higher patient evaluations of their diabetes self-management were significantly associated with lower HbA(1c) levels (P < 0.01) and receipt of diabetes services. Those in the 95th percentile for self-management had a mean HbA(1c) level of 7.3 (95% CI 6.4-8.3), whereas those in the 5th percentile had mean levels of 8.3 (7.4-9.2). For every 10-point increase in patients' ratings of their diabetes self-management, even after adjusting for number of outpatient visits, the odds of receiving an HbA(1c) test in the past year increased by 15% (4-27%), of receiving an eye examination increased by 16% (7-27%), and of receiving a nephropathy screen increased by 13% (2-26%).

CONCLUSIONS: In this sample, patients' assessments of their diabetes self-care using a simple five-question instrument were significantly associated both with actual HbA(1c) control and with receiving recommended diabetes services. These findings reinforce the usefulness of patient evaluations of their own self-management for understanding and improving glycemic control. The mechanisms by which those patients who are more actively engaged in their diabetes self-care are also more likely to receive necessary services warrant further study.

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