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Assessment and prevention of hypoglycaemia in primary care among U.S. Veterans: a mixed methods study.

Pilla SJ, Meza KA, Beach MC, Long JA, Gordon HS, Bates JT, Washington DL, Bokhour BG, Tuepker A, Saha S, Maruthur NM. Assessment and prevention of hypoglycaemia in primary care among U.S. Veterans: a mixed methods study. Lancet Regional Health. Americas. 2023 Dec 1; 28:100641.

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BACKGROUND: Hypoglycaemia from diabetes treatment causes morbidity and lower quality of life, and prevention should be routinely addressed in clinical visits. METHODS: This mixed methods study evaluated how primary care providers (PCPs) assess for and prevent hypoglycaemia by analyzing audio-recorded visits from five Veterans Affairs medical centres in the US. Two investigators independently coded visit dialogue to classify discussions of hypoglycaemia history, anticipatory guidance, and adjustments to hypoglycaemia-causing medications according to diabetes guidelines. FINDINGS: There were 242 patients (one PCP visit per patient) and 49 PCPs. Two thirds of patients were treated with insulin and 40% with sulfonylureas. Hypoglycaemia history was discussed in 78/242 visits (32%). PCPs provided hypoglycaemia anticipatory guidance in 50 visits (21%) that focused on holding diabetes medications while fasting and carrying glucose tabs; avoiding driving and glucagon were not discussed. Hypoglycaemia-causing medications were de-intensified or adjusted more often (p  <  0.001) when the patient reported a history of hypoglycaemia (15/51 visits, 29%) than when the patient reported no hypoglycaemia or it was not discussed (6/191 visits, 3%). Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) was not associated with diabetes medication adjustment, and only 5/12 patients (42%) who reported hypoglycaemia with HbA1c < 7.0% had medications de-intensified or adjusted. INTERPRETATION: PCPs discussed hypoglycaemia in one-third of visits for at-risk patients and provided limited hypoglycaemia anticipatory guidance. De-intensifying or adjusting hypoglycaemia-causing medications did not occur routinely after reported hypoglycaemia with HbA1c < 7.0%. Routine hypoglycaemia assessment and provision of diabetes self-management education are needed to achieve guideline-concordant hypoglycaemia prevention. FUNDING: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

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