Approximately half of adults with diabetes have at least one comorbid condition. However, diabetes care guidelines focus on diabetes-specific care, and their recommendations may not be appropriate for many patients with diabetes and comorbidity. We describe Piette and Kerr's typology of comorbid conditions, which categorizes conditions based on if they are clinically dominant (eclipse diabetes management), symptomatic versus asymptomatic, and concordant (similar pathophysiologic processes as diabetes) versus discordant. We integrate this typology with clinical evidence and shared decision-making methods to create an algorithmic approach to prioritizing care in patients with diabetes and comorbidity. Initial steps are determining the patient's goals of care and preferences for treatment, whether there is a clinically dominant condition or inadequately treated symptomatic condition, and the risk of cardiovascular disease. With these data in hand, the clinician and patient prioritize diabetes treatments during a shared decision-making process. These steps should be repeated, especially when the patient's clinical status changes. This patient-centered process emphasizes overall quality of life and functioning rather than a narrow focus on diabetes.
© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences.