Objective: To evaluate current risk models and scores for type 2 diabetes and inform selection and implementation of these in practice.
Design: Systematic review using standard (quantitative) and realist (mainly qualitative) methodology. Inclusion criteria Papers in any language describing the development or external validation, or both, of models and scores to predict the risk of an adult developing type 2 diabetes.
Data sources: Medline, PreMedline, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched. Included studies were citation tracked in Google Scholar to identify follow-on studies of usability or impact.
Data extraction: Data were extracted on statistical properties of models, details of internal or external validation, and use of risk scores beyond the studies that developed them. Quantitative data were tabulated to compare model components and statistical properties. Qualitative data were analysed thematically to identify mechanisms by which use of the risk model or score might improve patient outcomes.
Results: 8864 titles were scanned, 115 full text papers considered, and 43 papers included in the final sample. These described the prospective development or validation, or both, of 145 risk prediction models and scores, 94 of which were studied in detail here. They had been tested on 6.88 million participants followed for up to 28 years. Heterogeneity of primary studies precluded meta-analysis. Some but not all risk models or scores had robust statistical properties (for example, good discrimination and calibration) and had been externally validated on a different population. Genetic markers added nothing to models over clinical and sociodemographic factors. Most authors described their score as "simple" or "easily implemented," although few were specific about the intended users and under what circumstances. Ten mechanisms were identified by which measuring diabetes risk might improve outcomes. Follow-on studies that applied a risk score as part of an intervention aimed at reducing actual risk in people were sparse.
Conclusion: Much work has been done to develop diabetes risk models and scores, but most are rarely used because they require tests not routinely available or they were developed without a specific user or clear use in mind. Encouragingly, recent research has begun to tackle usability and the impact of diabetes risk scores. Two promising areas for further research are interventions that prompt lay people to check their own diabetes risk and use of risk scores on population datasets to identify high risk "hotspots" for targeted public health interventions.