Diabetes in urban African-Americans. XV. Identification of barriers to provider adherence to management protocols.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether health care providers appropriately identify patients with poor glycemic control and to investigate reasons why providers may fail to intensify therapy in these patients. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Our management protocol calls for providers to advance diabetes therapy in patients with fasting plasma glucose levels > 7.8 mmol/l or random plasma glucose levels > 10.0 mmol/l. During a 3-month period, providers completed a questionnaire at the end of individual patient visits by asking whether the patient was well controlled and whether therapy was advanced. If therapy was not advanced in patients perceived to have poor control, providers were asked to provide a justification. RESULTS: Providers appropriately identified 88% of well-controlled patients and 94% of patients with poor glycemic control. Out of 1,144 patient visits, control was reported to be good in 508 and poor in 636. In these 636 visits, therapy was advanced in 490 but not in 146 visits. The dominant reasons for failure to intensify therapy were the perception by the provider that control was improving (34%) or the belief that the patient was not compliant with diet or medications (25%). Less common reasons included acute illness, patient refusal, and recurrent hypoglycemia. Based on fasting glucose levels, protocol adherence was 55% before the questionnaire, 64% during the questionnaire (P = 0.006), and 63% afterwards. CONCLUSIONS: Providers in a specialty diabetes clinic appropriately classified patients according to glycemic control and tended to intensify therapy when indicated in most poorly controlled patients. Provider self-survey of behavior and decision making may be an effective strategy to improve adherence to management protocols.