Physician adoption of a practice guideline: Effect on the cost of medical care for adult patients with diabetes

Carolyn P Konfirst, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In the demanding environment of healthcare reform, reduction of unwanted physician practice variation is promoted, often through evidence-based guidelines. Guidelines represent innovations that direct change(s) in physician practice; however, compliance has been disappointing. Numerous studies have analyzed guideline development and dissemination, while few have evaluated the consequences of guideline adoption. The primary purpose of this study was to explore and analyze the relationship between physician adoption of the glycated hemoglobin test guideline for management of adult patients with diabetes, and the cost of medical care. The study also examined six personal and organizational characteristics of physicians and their association with innovativeness, or adoption of the guideline. Cost was represented by approved charges from a managed care claims database. Total cost, and diabetes and related complications cost, first were compared for all patients of adopter physicians with those of non-adopter physicians. Then, data were analyzed controlling for disease severity based on insulin dependency, and for high cost cases. There was no statistically significant difference in any of eight cost categories analyzed. This study represented a twelve-month period, and did not reflect cost associated with future complications known to result from inadequate management of glycemia. Guideline compliance did not increase annual cost, which, combined with the future benefit of glycemic control, lends support to the cost effectiveness of the guideline in the long term. Physician adoption of the guideline was recommended to reduce the future personal and economic burden of this chronic disease. Only half of physicians studied had adopted the glycated hemoglobin test guideline for at least 75% of their diabetic patients. No statistically significant relationship was found between any physician characteristic and guideline adoption. Instead, it was likely that the innovation-decision process and guideline dissemination methods were most influential. A multidisciplinary, multi-faceted approach, including interventions for each stage of the innovation-decision process, was proposed to diffuse practice guidelines more effectively. Further, it was recommended that Organized Delivery Systems expand existing administrative databases to include clinical information, decision support systems, and reminder mechanisms, to promote and support physician compliance with this and other evidence-based guidelines.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Konfirst, Carolyn P, "Physician adoption of a practice guideline: Effect on the cost of medical care for adult patients with diabetes" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9981801.