Primary Care Diabetes Bundle Management: 3-Year Outcomes for Microvascular and Macrovascular Events

Using a system for primary care management of patients with diabetes may reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and retinopathy over a 3-year period.
Published Online: June 26, 2014
Frederick J. Bloom Jr, MD; Xiaowei Yan, PhD; Walter F. Stewart, PhD; Thomas R. Graf, MD; Tammy Anderer, PhD; Duane E. Davis, MD; Steven B. Pierdon, MD; James Pitcavage, MS; and Glenn D. Steele Jr, MD

To determine whether a system of care with an all-or-none bundled measure for primary-care management of diabetes mellitus reduced the risk of microvascular and macrovascular complications compared with usual care.

Study Design

A parallel pre-post observational design was used. In 2006, a system of care for diabetes was implemented for some members of the Geisinger Health Plan. A total of 4095 primary-care patients were in the Diabetes System of Care group (DS) and compared with a propensity score–matched cohort of 4095 primary care patients not in the system of care (non-Diabetes System of Care [NDS]).


Cumulative hazard rate was measured over a 3-year period for retinopathy, amputation, stroke, and myocardial infarction (MI).


The adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) for MI (HR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.65- 0.90), stroke (HR, 0.79; CI, 0.65-0.97), and retinopathy (HR, 0.81; CI, 0.68-0.97) were all significantly lower among DS patients. The adjusted HR for major amputations (HR, 1.32; CI, 0.45-3.85) did not differ between groups, but only 17 major amputations occurred during the follow-up period. The necessary number of patients to treat in order to prevent 1 event over 3 years was 82 for MI, 178 for stroke, and 151 for retinopathy.


A system of care with an all-or-none bundled measure used in primary care for patients with diabetes may reduce the risk of MI, stroke, and retinopathy over a 3-year period.

Am J Manag Care. 2014;20(6):e175-e182
A diabetes system of care using an all-or-none bundled measure can reduce the microvascular and macrovascular complications of diabetes in only 3 years.

  • A system of care for diabetes can reduce myocardial infarction, stroke, and retinopathy in only 3 years.

  • Translation into a workable care protocol in primary care is challenging. Workflows were developed that were measurable, scalable, reliable, and not dependent on the diligence of individual providers.

  • Payers and health systems can innovate and invest together in the infrastructure to build similar systems of care, knowing that the benefit for their patients with diabetes will be prompt.
The prevalence of diabetes mellitus in the United States increased 40% between 2007 and 2010, to 11.9% of the population aged 20 years and older.1 Patients with diabetes are at increased risk for microvascular complications including retinopathy, nephropathy and amputation, and macrovascular complications including stroke and myocardial infarction (MI). Glycemic control has dramatically improved microvascular outcomes in patients with type 1 diabetes2 and type 2 diabetes,3 but has not consistently been associated with improved macrovascular outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Recent studies show that intensive glucose control is associated with increased risk or no benefit.4-6 In contrast, lipid and blood pressure (BP) control have resulted in clear reductions in CVD in persons with diabetes.7-9 Moreover, the combined control of these risk factors reduced the risk of CVD outcomes.10,11 Notably, the time to onset of risk reduction can be relatively short. For example, smoking cessation reduces coronary events within 6 months for patients at high risk.12

In spite of the evidence, translation of standards of care into a workable care protocol in primary care is challenging. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has promulgated detailed standards of care for improving patient outcomes, including recommendations for medical care from physician-coordinated teams.13 However, providing state-of-the- art guideline care is rarely achieved.14 Although there is evidence that the use of an electronic health record (EHR) may improve process-of-care measures and intermediate outcome measures for diabetes15 even when guideline care is provided, it is unclear whether the benefits of reduced risk accrue and how much time is required before risk reduction is measurable.

A team-based model was designed to more consistently provide evidence-based care to patients with diabetes. This system of care used a 9-component bundle of diabetes measures, a workflow redesign, EHR tools, and financial incentives to improve the consistency and reliability of care, as previously reported.16 A key aspect of this program is an all-or-none measure that determines physician incentives. We describe the impact of this system of care on risk of microvascular complications of retinopathy and amputation and macrovascular complications of stroke and MI over the first 3 years of implementation.


This research study was approved by the Geisinger Institutional Review Board. The evaluation of the diabetes system of care was completed among members of the Geisinger Health Plan (GHP). Approximately 45% of GHP members receive their care from Geisinger primary care physicians. GHP also contracts with non-Geisinger physicians who provide primary care to the other 55% of members. The diabetes system of care was implemented in all 38 Geisinger primary care sites, referred to hereafter as Diabetes System (DS). DS patients were compared with propensity score–matched primary care patients from other clinics in the same region, referred to hereafter as non-Diabetes System (NDS). One key part of the DS is that it was implemented in an integrated healthcare system. This allowed for many advantages in implementation, such as a shared EHR system across all providers, ease of reporting to all providers without conflict, and an equitable application of physician incentives to all providers. The NDS system had many nonintegrated care characteristics, yet had numerous diabetes improvement programs in effect during the study period that are discussed further in the discussion section.

Diabetes System of Care (DS)

The DS was designed by a multispecialty, multidisciplinary work group. The ADA Guidelines for the Standard of Medical Care for Diabetes were used as the basis for the system of care.17 The team model included an allor- none measure with physician incentives awarded only when a patient fulfilled all 9 components of the bundle (Table 1). Previous research has examined compliance rates within the DS program and found significant increases in all measures of diabetes care within the first 12 months.18

Beginning in January 2006, the all-or-none bundle was routinely measured in all adults with diabetes at Geisinger primary care sites. DS included delegated accountable responsibilities for each team member—physician, advanced practitioner, nurse, case manager, front office staff, and call center staff. Workflows were developed to be measurable, scalable, reliable, and not dependent on the diligence of individual providers. DS included EHR decision support, autogenerated patient report cards, and automated updating of a patient registry. During the office visit, licensed practical nurses and medical assistants were presented with decision support for all process-related diabetes care and had standing orders for influenza and pneumococcal immunizations, diabetes lab work, eye exam referrals, and diabetic foot screenings. Providers are presented with decision support for only those elements of diabetes bundle care that require complex medical decision making, including glycated hemoglobin (A1C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and BP management. Patient report cards were generated during the office visit to be shared later with the patient. The individual metrics and all-or-none bundle results for each clinic team and for each individual provider were reported monthly. Each team had access to the individual reports and team reports of all other physicians/ teams within Geisinger.

Comparison Primary Care Population

Analysis of outcomes was based on claims data obtained from GHP. As previously noted, GHP members in the DS were compared with those in the NDS. The analysis was confined to GHP members because medical claims data on all eligible diabetes patients could be used to identify relevant documentation of micro- and macrovascular events. Analysis was limited to the period of services provided and paid by GHP from January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2008, and was confined to patients who were aged 40 years or older with a diabetes diagnosis. The 2 years of observations from 2004 to 2005 were used to establish baseline event rates in the two patient populations before the DS was implemented.

During the study period, individuals were included as diabetes cases if they met Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) criteria19 and had 4 or more encounters with a diabetes International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) code on different dates during the study period. The earliest encounter with a diabetes ICD-9 code was taken as the diabetes baseline date. Patients had to have at least 180 days of follow-up after their diabetes baseline date to contribute to the analysis.


We identified all inpatient and outpatient claims during the 5-year study period related to the following ICD-9 codes: retinopathy (ICD- 9 codes 250.5x and 362.xx); amputation (ICD-9 codes 89.5x, 89.6x, 89.7x, and 99.7x); MI (ICD-9 code 410.xx); and stroke (ICD-9 codes 430, 431.xx-438.xx). The following numbers of cases were identified: 2518 retinopathy; 138 amputation; 3824 MI; and 2112 stroke. Incident microvascular or macrovascular events were identified as the earliest documentation of 1 of the above codes if there was also at least 1 year of follow-up prior to the first documentation of the claims event. This “clean-out period” restriction was imposed to eliminate prevalent events among those who became new members of GHP. In sensitivity analysis, we also used a 2-year clean-out period. The findings were essentially the same. Using the 1-year criteria, we identified 519 retinopathy, 17 amputation, 714 MI, and 445 stroke incident events.

Chronic kidney disease, 1 of 3 serious microvascular diseases associated with diabetes, was not evaluated as an outcome because it is not reliably reported in insurance claims data unless a patient has end-stage disease.

Statistical Analysis

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