Physicians are trained to manage their patients’ diabetes and often do a meticulous job – one on one. But in order to maximize glycemic control outcomes throughout the hospital, you need a kind of diabetic epidemiology team to focus on the data, said Andjela Drincic, MD, an endocrinologist at Nebraska Medicine, the clinical partner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
As medical director for diabetes stewardship, Dr. Drincic serves as the epidemiologic lead for her hospital, which has worked systematically to improve inpatient glycemic control since 2012 – with help from the Society of Hospital Medicine.
“You need a team and to set up a system that works, with protocols and some way of knowing if the protocols are succeeding,” Dr. Drincic said. “Quality improvement targets are never static.” She credited SHM’s glycemic control eQUIPS (Electronic Quality Improvement Program), an online quality improvement resource and collaborative of 104 participating hospitals, for providing the support and the data needed to drive glycemic QI efforts at Nebraska Medicine. SHM provided reporting metrics, quarterly benchmarking reports, a library of tools and resources, an implementation guide, educational webinars on demand and, for some participants, mentored implementation with the advice of a leading expert in the field.
One big reason for giving more attention to glycemic control in the hospital is patient safety, said Gregory Maynard, MD, MHM, clinical professor and chief quality officer at the University of California–Davis Medical Center and SHM’s project team leader for eQUIPS.
“Hyperglycemia in hospitalized patients is an extraordinarily common and growing problem, affecting up to 40%-50% of patients in the hospital,” he said. In 2012, 7.7 million hospital stays involved patients with diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.1
Hyperglycemia is linked to elevated rates of medical complications, infections, wound complications, hospital mortality, length of stay, readmissions, and ICU admissions, along with other outcomes not directly related to diabetes. Hyperglycemia in hospitalized patients who have not been given a diagnosis of diabetes is, if anything, more dangerous. Add the related risk for hypoglycemia, and clinicians are challenged to keep their patients controlled within the zone between the extremes of hyper- and hypoglycemia. The American Diabetes Association recently issued recommendations with more relaxed glucose targets between 140 and 180 mg/dL for most patients in non–intensive care settings.2
“To not have a standardized way of managing hyperglycemia for your hospital seems like an enormous missed opportunity,” Dr. Maynard said. “If someone comes into the hospital with a chronic condition of diabetes that you ignore, just maintaining them in the hospital and sending them back out into the world without addressing the underlying condition is not good care. You have missed an important opportunity to alter the course of a serious chronic condition.”
Dr. Maynard said SHM recognized this opportunity when it established eQUIPS. “Hospitalists are often tasked with taking care of patients with glycemic issues because there may not be an endocrinologist readily accessible in the hospital,” he said. “We have seen through our benchmarking in eQUIPS incredible variability – with 10-fold differences in hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia rates between the best- and worst-performing sites. The biggest variable is whether the hospital systematically manages glycemic control. We have also shown that achieving high levels of glycemic control and low hypoglycemia rates concurrently is very possible.”