Manifestation of Poor Glycemic Control Part 2

By ThinkReliability Staff

In a previous blog, we discussed how poor glycemic control can result in hyperglycemia which could lead to nonketotic hyperosmolar coma.  Diabetic ketoacidosis, if resulting from poor glycemic control within a hospital setting, is another hospital-acquired condition as determined by Medicare & Medicaid, meaning that hospitals will not receive additional payment for cases when this condition is acquired during hospitalization.  Like nonketotic hyperosmolar coma, diabetic ketoacidosis can have a significant impact on patient safety and can be investigated within a Cause Map, or a visual root cause analysis.

The impacted goals for a hospital resulting from hospital-acquired diabetic ketoacidosis are very similar to those for nonketotic hyperosmolar coma.  Patient safety is impacted due to an increased risk of death, which can also result in a provider being a “second victim.  This is a “no-pay” hospital acquired condition, which is estimated to cost $42,974 per case.  According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2007 there were 11,469 cases of hospital-acquired diabetic ketoacidosis, resulting in a total cost to the healthcare system of almost half a billion dollars.

According to a study  published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, diabetic emergencies, including nonketotic hyperosmolar coma,  increases the risk of patient death (from 9% to 16%),  length of patient stay (from 7 to 14 days) and treatment requirements.  The costs associated with nonketotic hyperosmolar coma (greater than $114 million in the US in 2007, according to CMS) are no longer reimbursable when the condition is acquired in the hospital.  Additionally, patient death due to hospital-acquired conditions can result in a second   victim – the healthcare provider(s).  Additionally, this diagnosis results in increased stay and treatment requirements.

Beginning with the impacted goals and asking “Why” questions, we quickly determine that diabetic ketoacidosis, like nonketotic hyperosmolar coma, results from uncontrolled hyperglycemia.  Rather than perform the same analysis of causes of hyperglycemia (which, if we’re doing our job right, should result in the same cause-and-effect relationships), we can link to the analysis shown in our previous blog.   However, for diabetic ketoacidosis, we also have a cause of dehydration.  Since this was not a cause previously analyzed, we will add to this portion of the Cause Map.

Patient dehydration can result from a medication that increases fluid loss, an underlying medical condition, or inadequate water intake.  Inadequate water intake can result from a patient’s limited access to water, such as a patient who is bedridden and is not provided adequate water from a caregiver, or the patient feels too ill to drink, or the patient is unable to drink, due to incapacitation, confusion, restraints or sedation.  A combination of these causes may also occur.

Because of the importance of preventing these conditions resulting from hyperglycemia and dehydration, every effort should be made to prevent these outcomes from occurring.

Two other conditions are considered hospital-acquired manifestations of poor glycemic control, diabetic ketoacidosis and hypoglycemic coma.  In future blogs, we will discuss the causes of these issues, and suggested solutions to reduce the risk of these types of incidents.  It is recommended that an individualized insulin plan be used, rather than a sliding scale, to ensure blood glucose levels are kept at or below 110 mg/dL.  A specific glycemic management team, which carefully coordinates medical nutritional therapy with insulin control, can also reduce the risk of glycemic events.  Patients who are found to have an insulin deficiency should be treated with intravenous insulin.

Because 20-30% of diabetic ketoacidosis cases are estimated to be the initial presentation of previously undiagnosed diabetes, some experts recommend testing the glucose levels of all children who have not been diagnosed with diabetes, and all patients who are vomiting or require intravenous hydration.  To reduce the risk of dehydration, patient’s fluid intake should be tracked and any patients who are unable to  drink should have intravenous fluids.

Nonketotic hyperosmolar coma and diabetic ketoacidosis are two hospital-acquired events that result from hyperglycemia.  The remaining hospital-acquired manifestation of poor glycemic control, hypoglycemic coma, will be covered in a future blog.

To view the Outline, Cause Map, and Solutions please click “Download PDF” above.  Or click here to read our previous blog.