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Patterns of diabetes testing for older adults without diabetes in Ontario’s nursing homes: a population-based study


Background — Asymptomatic diabetes testing may be of limited value for older nursing home residents, but most diabetes guidelines lack upper-age cutoffs for screening cessation. We evaluated patterns of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and serum blood glucose (SBG) testing among older residents without diabetes in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — This population-based retrospective cohort study used provincial health administrative data from ICES to identify older nursing home residents in Ontario without diabetes between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018. We examined HbA1c and glucose testing rates overall, by age, sex, and near end-of-life. The number of tests needed to identify one case of diabetes (using HbA1c thresholds of 6.5% and 8.0%) were also calculated.

Results — Among 102,923 older nursing home residents (70.3% women; average age 85.6 ± SD 7.7 years), 46.1% of residents received ≥1 HbA1c test over an average follow-up period of 2.15 (± SD 1.49) years, and 18.2% of these tested residents received ≥4 HbA1c tests. The crude HbA1c testing rate was 52.6 tests/100 person-years (95% CI 52.3–52.9). Testing rates among residents aged ≥80 years was 50.7 HbA1c tests/100 person-years (95% CI 50.4–51.0), and 47.8 tests/100 person-years (95% CI 46.5–49.0) among residents near end-of-life. The number of tests to identify a case of diabetes (HbA1c ≥ 6.5%) was 44, while the number of tests to identify a case of actionable diabetes (HbA1c ≥ 8%) was 310. Less than 1% of residents with an HbA1c test met criteria for actionable diabetes.

Conclusions — Nursing home residents without diabetes receive frequent diabetes testing, with high testing rates even in residents over 80 years old and residents near end-of-life. The high number of tests needed to identify a case of actionable diabetes highlights the urgent need to re-evaluate diabetes testing practices in nursing homes.



Chen JTC, Austin PC, Luo J, Campitelli MA, Bronskill SE, Yu C, Rochon PA, Lipscombe LL, Lega IC. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2023; 71(3):720-9. Epub 2022 Dec 14.

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