Frequent Doctor Visits Improve Control

Need to take control of your diabetes and your health? Going to the doctor frequently might be just what the doctor ordered, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital published last month.

The researchers looked at how long it took type 2 patients to reach their goals in three areas: A1C levels, blood pressure, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Those who interacted with doctors frequently — every week to two weeks — achieved their goals far more quickly than those who interacted with doctors every three to six months.

That might seem obvious. More time talking to a doctor will lead you to pay better attention to your medical condition, right? But the differences described by this study are remarkable. On average, patients who spent lots of time with their doctors took 1.5 months to achieve their goals in all three areas. Patients who had little interaction with healthcare providers took 36.9 months to reach their goals. That’s more than three years!

The patients in the first group didn’t necessarily actually visit the doctor’s office every week or two. The study measured their “encounters” with doctors — which could include telephone calls to the office, for example.

So why are the outcomes so different? Some of the benefits seem clear, but what does more frequent interaction actually do for patients? Alexander Turchin, an assistant
professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s authors, said it’s likely a potent combination of factors.

“Physicians may be prescribing new medications or increasing the dose of existing ones,” Turchin said. “Another process occurring is lifestyle counseling. Physicians are telling
patients how they can improve their diet. They are telling their patients to exercise more and lose weight, which is going to help their diabetes control.”

Records used in the study came from 26,496 type 2 patients with high A1Cs, blood pressure, or LDL cholesterol. All of the patients were seen at some point from 2000 to 2009. The study appeared in the September 26, 2011, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.


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