Too many diabetics unnecessarily testing blood sugar levels daily

December 12, 2018

People with type 2 diabetes might be testing their blood sugar levels too much, a study has concluded.

Researchers at the University of Michigan say that roughly 14% of people with diabetes, but who don’t require insulin, are spending hundreds of dollars annually, and using thousands of test strips to check something that is not necessary.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, based on insurance information for more than 370,000 people with Type 2 diabetes but who did not take insulin, suggests that these tests are unnecessary.

“One of my patients who didn’t need to be testing daily told me that her previous doctor had told her to test her sugars two or three times a day,” said Kevin Platt, the internal medicine resident in the Department of Internal Medicine at University of Michigan and study lead investigator.

“These data show that over-testing is quite common – and with the appropriate guidance can be reduced significantly.”

About 23% of people in the study refilled prescriptions for test strips at least three times a year, getting 90 strips at a time. Another 43% of participants filled prescriptions exclusively for metformin or other medicines that don’t have a risk of hypoglycemia. Once patients established the proper dosage of medication that didn’t cause a blood sugar spike, they no longer needed daily testing.

But those two groups kept testing their blood sugar, even though they didn’t need to.

The researchers say many patients needlessly test daily to see how well exercise, dieting and their medicine regimens are actually working.

Plus, the cost for doing so doesn’t seem too high. The average cost for test strips, according to insurance data, is US$18 per year in co-pay and US$325 annually for insurance companies. Though the study does acknowledge that the cost for patients who don’t have insurance could run a lot higher.

“Healthcare costs and access to care are an important issue for many Americans,” said A. Mark Fendrick, a professor in General Medicine at University of Michigan and study senior author.

“The savings that result from reducing the use of unnecessary care – such as needless home blood sugar testing – can create ‘headroom’ to spend more on those clinical services that we need to buy more often”.



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Category: Education, Features

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