Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine
There are an increasing number of newer and better therapeutic options in the management of diabetes. However, a large proportion of diabetes patients still experience delays in intensification of treatment to achieve appropriate blood glucose targets-a phenomenon called clinical inertia. Despite the high prevalence of clinical inertia, previous research has not examined its long-term effects on diabetes-related health outcomes and mortality. We sought to examine the impact of clinical inertia on the incidence of diabetes-related complications and death. We also examined how the impact of clinical inertia would vary by the length of treatment delay and population characteristics. We developed an agent-based model of diabetes and its complications. The model was parameterized and validated by data from health surveys, cohort studies, and trials. We studied a simulated cohort of patients with diabetes in San Antonio, TX. We examined 25-year incidences of diabetes-related complications, including retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy, and cardiovascular disease. One-year clinical inertia could increase the cumulative incidences of retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy by 7%, 8%, and 18%, respectively. The effects of clinical inertia could be worse for populations who have a longer treatment delay, are aged 65 years or older, or are non-Hispanic whites. Clinical inertia could result in a substantial increase in the incidence of diabetes-related complications and mortality. A validated agent-based model can be used to study the long-term effect of clinical inertia and, thus, inform clinicians and policymakers to design effective interventions.