Background: Diabetes is a leading cause of death and disability, disproportionately affecting most ethnic minority groups, people of low socioeconomic status, the elderly, and people in rural areas. Despite the availability of evidence-based clinical recommendations, barriers exist in the delivery of appropriate diabetes care. The purpose of this study is to examine the level of diabetes care among low-income populations in North Carolina.
Methods: Baseline medical record abstractions were performed (N=429) on diabetic patients at 11 agencies serving low-income populations (community health centers, free clinics, primary care clinics, and public health clinics) across the state participating in a quality-of-diabetes-care initiative. Data were collected for four process (measurement of glycosylated hemoglobin and lipids, dilated eye examination, nephropathy assessment) and two outcome (glycemic and lipid control) measures based on the Diabetes Quality Improvement Project (DQIP) and the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set (HEDIS), and three additional indicators (blood pressure measurement and control, and lower limb assessment). Compliance rates to individual measures were calculated overall and by demographic and health characteristics.
Results: Diabetes care compliance rates ranged from 77.9% for blood pressure testing to 3.3% for complete foot examinations. Differences in care were observed by age, insulin use, and prevalent disease.
Conclusions: This study indicates low compliance with diabetes care guidelines in underserved North Carolinians, and inconsistency of care according to some demographic and health characteristics. These results stress the need for quality improvement initiatives that enhance the level of care received by patients with diabetes, particularly those most vulnerable to diabetes and its complications.