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Keep your doctor — keep your health

Study finds continuous care is the key to managing diabetes

Each year, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) spends millions of dollars in diabetes research. Scientific discoveries have changed the way doctors diagnose, treat and manage the disease. But one course of action should remain the same: Patients should stick with their doctor.

"There is an association between developing a sustained relationship with a primary care provider and improved blood sugar control in diabetics," said Michael Parchman, M.D., associate professor in the department of family and community medicine. "It is important that every person with diabetes have an established relationship with a primary care provider who gets to know patients as people."

That conclusion is the result of Dr. Parchman's 18-month study, "Continuity of Care, Self-Management Behaviors and Glucose Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes." The results will appear in the February 2002 edition of Medical Care, the journal of the American Public Health Association's Medical Care Section.

The study found diabetic patients who saw the same primary care provider over an average of 18 months were more than twice as likely to have either no change or an improvement in their blood sugar control, compared to those who saw more than one doctor.

"Over time, a sense of trust in the physician may make patients more comfortable in divulging critical information regarding their social context that is relevant to their health," Dr. Parchman said. "This new information may help the physician tailor his or her advice and management in a way that improves the patient's diabetes control."

Dr. Parchman said the research is ongoing, but the results should encourage patients to stay with the same doctor if possible. "For people with diabetes, and maybe other chronic diseases, disruptions in a sustained relationship with a primary care provider may have unintended adverse consequences," Dr. Parchman said.

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas