Physicians missing opportunities to help patients with prediabetes, researchers say

By Aine Cryts

Less than a quarter of prediabetes patients receive treatment from their primary care physician for the disease--despite the fact that these patients had blood glucose levels in the prediabetic range, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Aware that 90 percent of those with prediabetes don't know they have the disease, University of Florida researchers wanted to know if physicians were identifying these patients and communicating with them about treatment plans, according to a study announcement.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2012 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a survey of physician office visits that helps provide national estimates of U.S. medical care. Included in the study were patients who were 45 years and older who had visited their general, family or internal medicine providers.

While about 34 percent of the patients had a blood glucose level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent--considered by the American Diabetes Association to be prediabetes--very few patients were informed that they were prediabetic.

Only 23 percent of these patients received either lifestyle modification counseling or drug therapy, according to the study.

"We know that prediabetes is considered one of the biggest risk factors for the development of diabetes, with estimates ranging from 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes developing diabetes within five years," lead investigator Arch Mainous III, Ph.D., chair of the department of health services research, management and policy in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, part of UF Health, said in the announcement.

Mainous and his fellow researchers concluded that there are missed opportunities for diabetes prevention in primary care--and that providers must be more proactive about preventing diabetes in their patients.

The most effective way to prevent prediabetes from advancing to diabetes is by providing treatment--and that will head off the need to manage half the population with the disease, Mainous said. He's currently surveying several thousand family practice physicians to determine the reasons patients don't receive treatment for prediabetes.

To learn more:
- read the study
- view the study announcement