New Tool Discerns Diabetes Patients At Risk For Hypoglycemic Emergencies

A practical tool for identifying individuals at risk of needing medical attention for severe hypoglycemia has been developed by a team of researchers.

Though treatment advances have improved long term outcomes for people with diabetes, patients sometimes develop dangerously low blood sugar levels when on diabetes medications, particularly after exercising strenuously or missing a meal.

Hypoglycemia is currently one of the most common adverse events for individuals with type 2 diabetes; those with a long history of the condition are especially susceptible. The new tool developed by Kaiser Permanente investigators is designed to reduce the frequency of these events.

The new tool was developed by gathering data from 200,000 people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers then used machine-learning analytical methods to create a program that predicts a patient’s 12-month risk for severe hypoglycemia.

The program’s prediction is based on a person’s number of earlier hypoglycemia-related emergency medical visits, insulin use, sulfonylurea use, presence of severe kidney-disease, the number of any-reason emergency room visits in the past year, and age.

Using this information the program categorizes patients according to a high, intermediate, or low risk for needing hypoglycemia-related emergency services (e.g., ER visit, hospital stay). The tool was subsequently validated with data from more than 1.3 million U.S. Veterans Health Administration members and almost 15,000 Kaiser Permanente members with type 2 diabetes.

Development was funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the tool’s effectiveness for increasing patient safety and awareness is currently being examined by several public and private health care systems, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Mayo Clinic, and Kaiser Permanente.

“This work is an example of how federal agencies can work with private researchers to reduce preventable adverse drug events,” said John Whyte, M.D., MPH, Director of Professional Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement for the FDA. “The goal is to identify the patients who are at highest hypoglycemic risk, so that health care providers can focus their attention on the specific needs of these patients and reduce preventable hypoglycemia harm.”

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Terry Minton

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