Research Shows Our Healthcare System Is Failing At Treating Prediabetes

May 27, 2022
Research Shows Our Healthcare System Is Failing At Treating Prediabetes

We’ve talked extensively about how one in three Americans have prediabetes, and that 80% of those people don’t even know they have it. The number of cases of prediabetes and diabetes is skyrocketing year over year, and it’s clear the systems in place to prevent, detect and treat the disease are failing. A recent study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine confirmed as much, showing that only 5% of the people who screened positive for prediabetes actually received a diagnosis, and 0% of those people received the recommended treatment plan.

The concept behind the study was simple: determine if the guidelines laid out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) for screening, diagnosing and treating prediabetes are being followed by large health systems. 

The study analyzed electronic health records of 21,448 patients of a large health center in Florida between August 1, 2019, and October 31, 2020. All patients in the study were eligible for prediabetes screening, according USPSTF recommendations. A patient was marked as having prediabetes if they tested positive twice for abnormal glucose levels. Once assigned as having prediabetes, the researchers then assessed if that patient had been formally diagnosed as having prediabetes and if a treatment plan had been received. 

What the study showed

Of the 21,448 participants, 13,465 (62.8%) were screened according to USPSTF recommendations, and of those patients screened, 3,430 met the requirements for a prediabetes diagnosis. Shockingly, only 185 (5.4%) of those eligible actually received a formal prediabetes diagnosis, and none of those people received an appropriate treatment plan.  

Why was the diagnosis rate so low?

While researchers did not investigate the reasons for such low diagnosis and treatment rates, they did speculate on a few potential causes, including:

  • Patients may have refused diagnosis or treatment plans
  • Patients’ insurance may not have covered the appropriate treatment plan
  • Doctors receive no financial incentives to comply with diabetes prevention guidelines
  • Doctors may find it difficult to talk to patients about weight loss and lifestyle changes

Regardless of the reasons, what's clear is the system is well and truly broken.

Key takeaways

Based on the above findings, it’s no surprise that prediabetes rates continue to rise and that so few people even know they have the disease. If they did, would they be more likely to incorporate lifestyle changes such as better nutrition, losing weight and exercising more? The answer is almost certainly yes.

What’s clear is that our healthcare systems are failing at detecting, diagnosing and preventing prediabetes, and American lives are suffering because of it. This is a disease that is preventable and reversible, and technology like our January AI app exists in order to help people understand their body’s unique relationship to food and activity. With better screening and more thorough treatment plans, we can save millions of lives. But this study shows that we have a long road ahead of us.

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