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Fewer Than Half of Adults with Diabetes Get Critically Important Yearly Exams

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: April 25, 2006

According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), fewer than half of adults who have been diagnosed with diabetes say they obtain all three of the important yearly medical tests that are needed to properly manage the disease.

AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) finds that:

  • Only 41.7 percent of adults with diabetes reported having been checked within the past year for blood sugar level, diabetic retinopathy or other eye damage caused by diabetes, and foot sores and irritation. Three tests—hemoglobin A1C, dilated eye exam, and foot exam—are considered critical for controlling diabetes.
  • In interviews conducted in 2003, just over half—50.1 percent—reported having one or two of the exams.
  • Less than 5 percent (4.6 percent) reported having none of the exams.
  • In interviews, 3.6 percent said they did not know if they had undergone any of these tests.
  • More than 14 million adult Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, making it one of the nation's most costly health conditions.
  • If diabetes is diagnosed and treated effectively, complications, and associated health problems such as blindness and gangrene could be delayed or treated.

An AHRQ study published in 2005 estimated that $2.5 billion in hospital costs could be saved by preventing complications from diabetes through improved primary care (Economic and Health Costs of Diabetes).

MEPS collects information each year from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households on health care use, expenses, access, health status, and quality of care. MEPS is a unique government survey because of the degree of detail provided by the data, and in the ability to link data on health services spending and health insurance to demographic, employment, health status, and other characteristics of individuals and families.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on details from Diabetes Management: Tests and Treatments among 18 and Older U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population in 2003, on AHRQ's MEPS site at [PDF Help].

For more information, or to speak with a MEPS data expert about the findings, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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