Despite the health benefits that can result from an awareness of glucose levels, the popular A1c diabetes tests have recently come under fire. In a recent Washington Post article, David Sacks, chair of the National Glycohemoglobin Standardization Program, argues that the 5-minute fingerstick tests are meant to monitor fluctuations in blood sugar levels for clinically diabetic individuals, rather than serve as a diagnostic tool. The A1c tests have sprung up at health fairs, CVS MinuteClinics, and pharmacies across the country as a preventative measure, and are even offered as company perks to encourage employees to be proactive about their health. The fingerstick A1c test can be a great resource for many Americans who are unable to make it to the doctor regularly, and are often included in comprehensive health screenings which check blood pressure, cholesterol, and body composition as well.
A1c tests are far simpler than the approved “gold standard” for diagnosing diabetes, but that does not mean they should be dismissed entirely. In the longer diagnostic tests, a patient will fast for 9-12 hours and then drink a sugary beverage to allow for before-and-after blood analyses by a doctor. Often, several follow up visits are required to create an accurate account of glucose levels over time. Critics of the A1c tests argue that in comparison to the more elaborate glucose testing performed under a doctor’s care, "these tests don't have to adhere to proficiency standards. There's absolutely no way to monitor how well these point-of-care tests are performing." Although some studies point to inaccuracies among the tests (unnecessarily worrying some and perhaps placating those who are truly at risk), many health care providers are quick to point out that the immediate results these tests provide are often just the first step towards proper care.
As a wellness company, we like to focus on the benefits of any kind of preventative testing. At no point during a screening do we diagnose diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease – we merely collect data, provide results, and suggest the participant make an appointment to further discuss results with a doctor. For many employees, they have no idea where they fall on the general health scale and getting a sense of their overall health status can be a true eye-opener.
Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn claims that quick diabetes testing is a valuable health-care resource: “These tests are not used to provide a clinical diagnosis or recommend any treatment,” he says. “What we do is provide patients test results and encourage them to report the results to their primary-care provider."
For more information about diabetes and A1c testing, check out this link from the mayoclinic reference library.