Knowing Test Results Immediately Improves Blood Sugar in Diabetics

From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 3, 1999 (Baltimore) -- When people with diabetes are given test results immediately in the doctor's office, control of their blood sugar improves, reports a study in the November issue of the journal Diabetes Care. "Both physicians and patients participating in this study liked having the results immediately very much," says Enrico Cagliero, MD, one of the researchers of the study, in an interview with WebMD.

People with diabetes requiring insulin therapy for longer than a year were included in the study. Participants were divided into two groups. One group had their blood analyzed on a machine available in the clinic or office right away, and the other group had their blood drawn and sent out to a laboratory, the more traditional method.

The study looked at the level of a blood marker called hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), or glycosylated hemoglobin, which indicates how well a person's blood sugar has been controlled over the past three months. The patients who got their HbA1C results before they left the doctor's office saw their blood sugar levels improve significantly over a 12-month period, indicating better diabetes control. Those who got their results by way of a laboratory did not see any change in their HbA1C results.

"We're not sure why the group that got the immediate feedback saw a decrease in HbA1C," says Cagliero, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "It might be because the patients got positive or negative feedback about their self-management right away, or that the physician was a little more aggressive in treatment because of having the numbers right there, or a combination."

Debra Counts, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, reviewed the study for WebMD. She says, "It's very convenient for both physician and patient to have these results. It only takes a finger-stick and then the machine runs for about six minutes, then you have a result. The patient doesn't have to make a separate appointment and go elsewhere to get blood drawn. The problem is, most insurance companies won't pay for this test."

Counts says that many patients won't be able to pay for the test themselves. "That's a real shame, because in our hands we've seen it really improve patient compliance," she says.

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