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Primary Care Doctors Meet Needs of Diabetics, Study Says

TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Primary care doctors provide superior care for patients with diabetes, according to a new study.

"We found that primary care physicians provide better care to diabetes patients when compared to other providers in a primary care setting because they were more likely to alter medications and consistently provide lifestyle counseling," study senior author Dr. Alexander Turchin, a physician and researcher in the division of endocrinology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a hospital news release.

The study assessed primary care received by more than 27,000 diabetes patients at two academic medical centers. In total, the patients had nearly 585,000 primary care appointments over an average of five years and five months, and 83 percent of those visits were with a primary care doctor. The rest of the visits were with a covering physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

Overall, medication intensification (either having a new medication prescribed or the dose of a current medication increased) occurred in 10 percent of the visits, and lifestyle counseling occurred in 40 percent of the visits.

But the researchers found that the likelihood of medication intensification and lifestyle counseling were much higher when patients saw a primary care doctor than when they saw another health care provider, according to the study published in the Dec. 10 issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

"Access to care is important and covering physicians and other providers play an important role in increasing access, especially in patients with acute complaints," Turchin said. "With growing focus on a team-based approach to practicing medicine, this finding should help guide the development of new models of primary care, especially in the care of diabetes patients."

To help bridge the gaps observed in the study, the researchers recommend better documentation and communication of the treatment plan through electronic medical records to other care providers.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more about diabetes patients' health care team.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Dec. 10, 2012

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