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Kristin MacGregor studied the impact of integrated behavioral healthcare in diabetes and the data shows measurable benefits

Date Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019

Samir Malkani, MD and Kristin MacGregor, PhD, presenting the study results 
at the American Diabetes Association's 79th Annual Scientific Sessions

Integrated Behavioral Healthcare (IBH) is considered the gold standard by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to address the many challenges facing people living with diabetes.  It’s well documented that both mental health and diabetes outcomes are improved by working with a behavioral psychologist to address emotional, behavioral and social factors.  Despite this knowledge, still very few diabetes clinics in the United States include a behavioral psychologist as part of their care team. 

State of Behavioral Health Integration in U.S. Diabetes Care: How Close Are We to ADA Recommendations?

Kristin L. MacGregor, PhD, is a behavioral psychologist at the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) who specializes in diabetes care.  She collaborates with physicians, nurse practitioners, diabetes educators, and dieticians within the DCOE to create comprehensive and individualized treatment plans for patients.

Dr. MacGregor believes lack of measurable results to prove its success, as well as cost factors, are preventing other clinics from providing this valuable service.  To that end, she led a study measuring the impact of integrated behavioral healthcare in diabetes.

“This is the first known study of its kind to evaluate the clinical benefit of having a behavioral psychologist who specializes in diabetes working within a diabetes clinic,” said MacGregor.  “We [behavioral psychologists] have the potential to make a substantial positive impact on people’s diabetes management and outcomes.”

Her study examined the impact of IBH on A1c levels when integrated into a large diabetes practice such as the UMass DCOE.  The research analyzed the progress of 374 people who each began with a baseline A1c over 8% before meeting with a behavioral psychologist.   

 “When we looked back at what their A1c was one year prior to their first behavioral psychology appointment, we found no evidence of any change in A1c within that 12 month period,” said MacGregor.  “However, one year after their initial behavioral health appointments, the average decrease in their A1c was an impressive 1.2%.” 

Dr. MacGregor is pleased that the results showed what she believed they would, that the addition of IBH intervention provided a significant benefit to patients beyond standard diabetes care.  While male A1c values were consistently higher throughout the period assessed, IBH treatment resulted in A1c reductions for both males and females.

To learn more about the behavioral health services offered at the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence, click here.

Diabetes Education Resources