Provider Response to Critical Action Values for Hypoglycemia in the Ambulatory Setting: a Retrospective Cohort Study

Aditya Ashok, Mohammed S. Abusamaan, Penelope Parker, Scott J. Pilla, Nestoras N. Mathioudakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The blood glucose level triggering a critical action value (CAV) for hypoglycemia is not standardized, and associated outcomes are unknown. Objective: To evaluate the clinical consequences of, and provider responses to, CAVs for hypoglycemia. Design: Retrospective cohort study at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center between April 1, 2013, and January 31, 2017. Participants: Patients with an ambulatory serum glucose < 50 mg/dL. Point-of-care capillary glucose and whole blood glucose samples were excluded. Main Measures: Electronic medical record (EMR) review for providers’ documented response to CAV, associated patient symptoms, and serious adverse events. Key Results: We analyzed 209 CAVs for hypoglycemia from 154 patients. The median age (IQR) was 59 years (46, 69), 89 (57.8%) were male, and 96 (62.3%) were black. Provider-to-patient contact occurred in 128 of 209 (61.2%) episodes, among which no documented etiology was observed for 81 of 128 (63.3%), no recommendations were provided in 32 of 128 (25.0%), and no patient-reported hypoglycemic symptoms were documented in 103 of 128 (80.5%). Serious adverse events were documented in 4 of 128 episodes (3.1%), two required glucagon administration, and three required an ED visit. Provider-to-patient contact was associated with the patient having malignant neoplasm (adjusted OR 3.63, p = 0.045) or a hypoglycemic disorder (adjusted OR 7.70, p = 0.018) and inversely associated with a longer time from specimen collection to EMR result (adjusted OR 0.90 per hour, p = 0.016). Conclusions: There is inconsistent provider-to-patient contact following CAVs for hypoglycemia, and the etiology and symptoms of hypoglycemia were infrequently documented. There were few serious documented adverse events associated with hypoglycemia, although undocumented events may have occurred, and the incidence of serious adverse events in non-contacted patients remains unknown. These findings demonstrate a need to standardize provider response to CAVs for hypoglycemia. Decreasing the lag time between sample collection and laboratory result reporting may increase provider-to-patient contact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1244-1249
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Ambulatory
  • Critical action value
  • Glucose
  • Hypoglycemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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