A Comparison of Diabetes Patients' Self-Reported Health Status with Hemoglobin A1c Test Results in 11 California Health Plans

Published in: Managed Care, v. 10, no. 3, Mar. 2001, p. 58-62, 65-8, 70

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Jeffrey Wasserman, Gifford Boyce-Smith, David S. P. Hopkins, Vernon Schabert, Mayer B. Davidson, Ronald J. Ozminkowski, Ann Albright, Sean T. Kennedy

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Purpose: To examine the relationship between hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test rates and values and various self-reported measures of health status within a sample of diabetes patients drawn from 11 California health plans, with a focus on improving diabetes care in this patient population. Design: The analysis relies on data obtained from medical records of a sample population of 4,747 diabetes patients and a patient survey mailed to a large subsample of patients included in the medical-records analysis. Methods: Descriptive methods were used to compare the medical records and survey-data results. Principal Findings: There were substantive differences noted between diabetes patients' self-reported health status, their level of satisfaction with the care they received, and the actual care they received. There was a large discrepancy between diabetes patients' perceptions of the care they received for their diabetes, which was overwhelmingly positive, and the HbA1c test-frequency rates observed across the 11 health plans studied, which were low. Conclusions: Patients' self-reports of health status, satisfaction with care, and extent of control over diabetes--a chronic condition that may have few perceptible symptoms--are associated with significant methodological limitations. Our examination of the relationship between perceived levels of self-management of diabetes and test status indicated that for patients who had at least one HbA1c test, some education during that process may have resulted in behavioral change. Patients who received no tests, however, may remain unaware of their glycemic control and the long-term consequences associated with even mild hyperglycemia. A clear need thus exists to educate diabetes patients about their health status. Health plan and provider group investments in educational efforts aimed at increasing testing rates are likely to lead to improved glycemic control and a reduction in the incidence of diabetes related complications and related expenditures.

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