This study examined patient experiences after receiving elevated diabetes screening values using blood collected at a dental clinic. It explores patients’ reactions to screening, whether or not they sought recommended medical follow-up, and facilitating factors and barriers to obtaining follow-up care.
At the comprehensive care clinics at a large, urban College of Dentistry in the United States, haemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) values were obtained from 379 study participants who had not been previously diagnosed with diabetes. In all, 169 (44.6%) had elevated HbA1C values. We analysed quantitative and qualitative data concerning these patients’ follow-up with primary care providers (PCPs).
We were able to contact 112 (66.3%) of the 169 study participants who had an elevated HbA1C reading. Of that group, 61 (54.5%) received recommended follow-up care from a PCP within 3 months, and an additional 28 (25.0%) said they intended to seek such care. Qualitative themes included the following: the screening letter – opportunity or burden, appreciation for the 3-month follow-up call and barriers to medical follow-up that included the following: lack of knowledge about diabetes, not understanding the importance of follow-up, busyness, financial concerns, fear and denial.
Quantitative and qualitative data demonstrate that dentists, dental hygienists and nurses are well poised to discover and translate new models of patient-centred, comprehensive care to patients with oral and systemic illness.