Clinical factors associated with persistently poor diabetes control in the Veterans Health Administration: A nationwide cohort study.



Patients with persistent poorly-controlled diabetes mellitus (PPDM) despite engagement in clinic-based care are at particularly high risk for diabetes complications and costs. Understanding this population's demographics, comorbidities and care utilization could guide strategies to address PPDM. We characterized factors associated with PPDM in a large sample of Veterans with type 2 diabetes.


We identified a cohort of Veterans with medically treated type 2 diabetes, who received Veterans Health Administration primary care during fiscal years 2012 and 2013. PPDM was defined by hemoglobin A1c levels uniformly >8.5% during fiscal year (FY) 2012, despite engagement with care during this period. We used FY 2012 demographic, comorbidity and medication data to describe PPDM in relation to better-controlled diabetes patients and created multivariable models to examine associations between clinical factors and PPDM. We also constructed multivariable models to explore the association between PPDM and FY 2013 care utilization.


In our cohort of diabetes patients (n = 435,820), 12% met criteria for PPDM. Patients with PPDM were younger than better-controlled patients, less often married, and more often Black/African-American and Hispanic or Latino/Latina. Of included comorbidities, only retinopathy (OR 1.68, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.63,1.73) and nephropathy (OR 1.26, 95% CI: 1.19,1.34) demonstrated clinically significant associations with PPDM. Complex insulin regimens such as premixed (OR 10.80, 95% CI: 10.11,11.54) and prandial-containing regimens (OR 18.74, 95% CI: 17.73,19.81) were strongly associated with PPDM. Patients with PPDM had higher care utilization, particularly endocrinology care (RR 3.56, 95% CI: 3.47,3.66); although only 26.4% of patients saw endocrinology overall.


PPDM is strongly associated with complex diabetes regimens, although heterogeneity in care utilization exists. While there is evidence of underutilization, inadequacy of available care may also contribute to PPDM. Our findings should inform tailored approaches to meet the needs of PPDM, who are among the highest-risk, highest-cost patients with diabetes.





Humans, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Cohort Studies, Comorbidity, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Electronic Health Records, Veterans Health Services


Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Alexopoulos, Anastasia-Stefania, George L Jackson, David Edelman, Valerie A Smith, Theodore SZ Berkowitz, Sandra L Woolson, Hayden B Bosworth, Matthew J Crowley, et al. (2019). Clinical factors associated with persistently poor diabetes control in the Veterans Health Administration: A nationwide cohort study. PloS one, 14(3). p. e0214679. 10.1371/journal.pone.0214679 Retrieved from

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Anastasia Stefania Alexopoulos

Assistant Professor of Medicine

George Lee Jackson

Adjunct Professor in Population Health Sciences

Areas of expertise: Epidemiology, Health Services Research, and Implementation Science

George L. Jackson, Ph.D., MHA is a healthcare epidemiologist and implementation scientist with a background in health administration.  He joined the faculty of the UT Southwestern Medical Center in February of 2023 as a Professor and Director of the Advancing Implementation & Improvement Science Program in the Peter O'Donnell Jr. School of Public Health.  Dr. Jackson is also a Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D) Research Health Scientist who works with the VA healthcare systems in both Durham, NC and Dallas, TX.  He is the Director of the Implementation and Improvement Science Lab/Core at the Durham VA Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT).  Additionally, he is a co-leader of a cooperative effort between the Dallas VA and Program on Implementation and Improvement Science designed to enhance the infrastructure for partnered health services and other research across the Dallas VA and UT Southwestern focused on enhancing the health and healthcare of Veterans in North Texas and across the Nation.

The UT Southwestern Advancing Implementation & Improvement Science Program seeks to further enhance collaborations between the UT Southwestern and affiliated health systems and community partners in the pursuit of common missions to enhance the health and healthcare of the people of North Texas.  The goal is to develop a system to identify potentially successful projects using implementation and improvement science – which uses rigorous, data-driven research to expand programs and improve a community’s health.

Dr. Jackson’s own research and evaluation efforts focus on the development, testing, and implementation of team-based approaches to address the treatment and prevention of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.  He has also evaluated efforts to enhance the organization of mental health care.  As an implementation scientist, Dr. Jackson studies strategies focused on the adoption and spread of evidence-informed practices across large health systems.  He is currently the corresponding principal investigator for two VA program grants focused on the process of identifying, replicating, and spreading innovations across large healthcare systems.  These include the Spreading Healthcare Access, Activities, Research and Knowledge (SHAARK) partnered evaluation of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Diffusion of Excellence program and the Dynamic Diffusion Network (DDN) QUERI Program, both funded by the VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI).

Dr. Jackson received his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in epidemiology, Master of Health Administration (MHA), and Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) in health policy and administration degrees from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He completed an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) pre-doctoral fellowship in health services research at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and AHRQ post-doctoral fellowship in health services research in the Duke Division of General Internal Medicine and HSR&D Center at the Durham VA.  He came to UT Southwestern from Duke University, where he was a Professor in the Departments of Population Health Sciences, Medicine (Division of General Internal Medicine), and Family Medicine & Community Health.  He also co-taught evidence-based practice in the Duke Physician Assistant (PA) Program.  Dr. Jackson currently maintains appointments as an Adjunct Professor of Population Health Sciences at Duke and Adjunct Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Valerie A. Smith

Associate Professor in Population Health Sciences

Valerie A. Smith, DrPH, is an Associate Professor in the Duke University Department of Population Health Sciences and Senior Research Director of the Biostatistics Core at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Center of Innovation. Her methodological research interests include: methods for semicontinuous and zero-inflated data, economic modeling methods, causal inference methods, observational study design, and longitudinal data analysis. Her current methodological research has focused on the development of marginalized models for semicontinuous data.

Dr. Smith works largely in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, with a focus on health policy interventions, health care utilization and expenditure patterns, program and policy evaluation, obesity and weight loss, bariatric surgery evaluation, and family caregiver supportive services.

Areas of expertise: Biostatistics, Health Services Research, Health Economics, and Health Policy

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