Background: Insurance coverage of patient self-management devices like self-monitoring blood glucose (SMBG) equipment may help to reduce race-related barriers to effective care.
Objectives: We examined whether providing free home glucose monitors had greater impacts on self-monitoring among black versus white patients with diabetes.
Research design: Using electronic medical record data (1992-1996), we used longitudinal survival analysis to examine racial differences in rates of initiation of SMBG after coverage and rates of discontinuation of SMBG 18 months after initiation. We used piecewise Cox models to compare relative rates of SMBG initiation between black and white patients before and after the policy.
Subjects: The study cohort included 2275 continuously enrolled adult patients with diabetes in a large, staff model HMO. Multivariate models were restricted to patients using oral therapy.
Results: Controlling for time-dependent and fixed effects, black patients were as likely to initiate SMBG as white patients before the policy (hazard ratio 1.14; 95% confidence interval 0.86-1.50) but more likely after the policy (hazard ratio 1.33; 95% confidence interval 1.01-1.76). Among postpolicy SMBG initiators, black patients were consistently at higher risk of SMBG discontinuation than white patients over time (P < 0.05). By the end of follow-up, discontinuation rates were 78% among black patients and 64% among white patients.
Conclusions: The policy is effective in triggering additional diabetes patients to self-manage, particularly black patients. However, persistence after initiation of monitoring is short-lived. Although our results show the potential of such policies to narrow racial gaps in self-management among racial minority groups, further interventions may be needed to promote long-term adherence.