Aims: We evaluated the impact of a continuous quality improvement effort implemented by a network of Italian diabetes clinics operating in the national healthcare system.
Methods: This was a controlled before-and-after study involving 95 centres, of which 67 joined the initiative since 2004 (group A) and 18 were first involved in 2007 (group B, control). All centres used electronic medical record systems. Information on quality indicators was extracted for the period 2004-2007. Data were centrally analysed anonymously and results were published annually. Each centre's performance was ranked against the 'best performers'. We compared quality indicators between the two groups of centres over 4 years.
Results: Over 100 000 Type 2 diabetes mellitus patients were evaluated annually. The proportion of patients with glycated haemoglobin levels < 7% increased by 6% in group A (2007-2004 difference) and by 1.3% in group B. The proportion of patients with low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol < 100 mg/dl improved by over 10% in both groups. The rate of patients with blood pressure values < or = 130/85 mmHg increased in group A (+6.4%), but not in group B (-1.4%). The use of insulin increased in group A only (+5.2%), while the use of statins increased by over 20% in both groups.
Conclusions: A physician-led quality improvement effort, based on the systematic evaluation of routine data, is effective in improving the performance of a large number of diabetes clinics. The small percentage increase in the number of patients at target, if applied to large numbers of patients, would translate into a significant impact on public health.