Should mitigating comorbidities be considered in assessing healthcare plan performance in achieving optimal glycemic control?

Am J Manag Care. 2007 Mar;13(3):133-40.


Background: Whether a public reporting measure for glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) of less than 7% should apply to all persons with diabetes mellitus is a matter of ongoing controversy.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of excluding persons with major medical or mental health conditions on assessment of healthcare system performance in achieving an A1C level of less than 7%.

Design and setting: Retrospective longitudinal administrative data analysis from 144 Veterans Health Administration medical centers.

Subjects: Veterans with diabetes mellitus younger than 65 years who were users of Veterans Health Administration healthcare in fiscal years 1999 and 2000. MAJOR OUTCOME VARIABLES: The proportions, 5-year mortality, and glycemic control of individuals with and without major comorbid conditions, as well as changes in league table rankings of facilities achieving an A1C threshold of less than 7% with and without the inclusion of seriously ill individuals.

Results: There were 220 922 subjects identified from 144 facilities. We identified 75 296 individuals (mean +/- SD facility range of excluded individuals, 33.3% +/- 5.3%) with conditions that would decrease the benefits or increase risks of glycemic control. The 5-year unadjusted mortality was 36.0% in 48 001 subjects (21.7%) excluded for major medical or neurological conditions, 14.9% in 17 515 subjects (7.9%) excluded for major mental health conditions, and 16.5% in 9780 subjects (4.4%) excluded for 2 or more other serious comorbid medical or psychological conditions, compared with 8.8% in the remaining subjects. A comparison of industry league table rankings indicated that 20% of the best and worse facilities changed 1 decile when ranking using exclusion criteria.

Conclusion: One in 3 veterans has comorbid conditions that would increase the risks or decrease the benefits of intensive glycemic control. We propose that a public reporting measure for A1C of less than 7% be subjected to exclusion criteria rather than be applied to all persons with diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / mortality
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / standards*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Veterans / standards*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin