Lack of resources in the US for identifying dangerous hypos in type 2 diabetes patients

by Barbara Hewitt on March 12, 2018

A new study has highlighted an ongoing gap in diabetes care which means that dangerously low blood sugar episodes are not being identified in the United States in people with type 2 diabetes.

This is because healthcare professionals lack the resources to identify, assess and manage patients who are at a high risk of developing hypoglycaemia, according to the research from the Endocrine Society and Avalere.


The study examined available resources for managing hypoglycaemia and opportunities to incorporate better management strategies in clinical practice. Hypoglycaemia is particularly common in adults who have type 2 diabetes and are 65 and older.

To develop the analysis, experts from the Society and Avalere Health conducted an environmental scan that examined clinical guidance documents, quality measures and their use in value based purchasing programmes, clinical tools and quality initiatives related to type 2 diabetes and hypoglycaemia.

The researchers found more than 750 relevant scientific articles published in the last five years and examined 31 in detail.

The analysis suggests that efforts to prevent hypoglycaemia should focus on helping primary care providers identify high-risk patients who would most benefit from individualized glycaemic targets and educating at-risk patients about how to recognize and appropriately manage hypoglycaemic events.

While some tools exist to help healthcare providers identify individuals at high risk of hypoglycaemia, they are not in widespread use.

Severe hypoglycaemia can cause seizures, loss of consciousness and death. One recent meta-analysis concluded that individuals who take insulin to treat type 2 diabetes experience an average of 23 mild or moderate events and one severe hypoglycaemic episode in a year.

‘While hypoglycaemia is well recognized as a threat among people with type 1 diabetes and their healthcare providers, the danger it poses to people with type 2 diabetes is underappreciated,’ said the Society’s chief professional and clinical affairs officer Robert Lash.

‘In the past two decades, healthcare providers and patients have made important strides to achieve improved blood glucose control to prevent or delay complications such as heart, eye and kidney disease. However, we need to be aware that emphasizing these lower blood glucose goals may unintentionally put individuals with type 2 diabetes at greater risk of hypoglycaemia,’ he pointed out.

A study of Medicare beneficiaries conducted between 1999 and 2011, for instance, found that quality metrics encouraging increased adherence to a targeted blood glucose goal had successfully reduced hospital admission rates for hyperglycaemia, or elevated blood glucose levels, but hospitalizations resulting from hypoglycaemia rose during the same timeframe.

The environmental scan paves the way for the Society’s Hypoglycaemia Prevention Initiative to improve outcomes in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The Initiative will include a pilot study to test ways to address the clinical care gaps identified in the analysis.

The Initiative’s goals include identifying patients who are at high risk in a timely manner, supporting appropriate clinical interventions that can be administered in primary care providers’ offices and clinics, and decreasing the frequency and severity of hypoglycaemia episodes. The effort brings together various healthcare stakeholders including endocrinologists, primary care providers, health plans, diabetes educators, and individuals with type 2 diabetes.

‘The current landscape clearly demonstrates the need to address hypoglycaemia as a routine part of clinical care for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Now that we understand the full scope of the issue, the Society’s Hypoglycaemia Prevention Initiative is poised to develop needed support tools for clinicians and to raise awareness of the problem among both healthcare providers and people with diabetes,’ Lash added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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