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Diabetes Test: Simple Diagnosis

Rating

2 Star

Diabetes Test: Simple Diagnosis

Our Review Summary

It’s not clear that ABC really knew what the news was here – referring to an old test as "new," yet admitting it’s "already widely available."  So viewers were left wondering what was really new here.

One print story we read had no problem summarizing the news succinctly when it led: 

"A blood test physicians use regularly to check blood sugar levels in people with diabetes is now being recommended as a tool to diagnose the disease." 

Was that so difficult?  Would that gobble up too much precious TV airtime? 

The news here is a proposed new application of an old test – and the ABC story just didn’t seem to get that. So neither could viewers.   

Instead, much of the airtime was wasted on meaningless people-on-the-street interviews – a hackneyed technique that doesn’t employ much in the way of sound journalism.   Asking people whether they knew if they had diabetes is not directly related to the news about the expanded use of the A1C test – UNLESS those people had been tested in conventional ways and were left uncertain. 

But the story was also weak on comparing the A1C with conventional testing. 

So, all in all, this story didn’t help viewer understanding very much.   

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No mention of costs nor of the cost implications of broader use of the A1C test for diabetes diagnosis. Without a clear description of the false positive, false negative, and positive predictive value, it is hard to know if this test is likely to generate a lot of un-needed service use in addition to just the cost associated with the test. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

No quantification of benefits of using the A1C test for diagnosis, and, in fact, the story really missed the whole point of the story.  One newspaper story had no problem explaining it succintly in its lede:

"A blood test physicians use regularly to check blood sugar levels in people with diabetes is now being recommended as a tool to diagnose the disease." 

Was that so difficult?  Would that gobble up too much precious TV airtime?  

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of reliability of the A1C test.   A potential harm of any testing is the sensitivity and specifity of the test. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of the evidence driving the new recommendation.  The story could have referred viewers to the fact that the recommendations published online and will appear in the July issue of Diabetes Care (http://care.diabetesjournals.org). 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Applicable

Not many details given about diabetes, so this criterion is N/A.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

Two physician experts interviewed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Not a good discussion of the evidence for the A1C test in comparision with existing plasma glucose or glucose tolerance tests.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

Story says the test is "already widely available" but confuses things badly by referring to it as "a new test."  It isn’t new. It never explained what it is already widely available for, and what the new use would be as a screening test.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

Badly flawed in this regard as the story twice refers to the test as new and it’s not at all new. The news here is a proposed new application of an old test – and the story just didn’t seem to get that. So neither could viewers. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

Two sources interviewed, so it doesn’t appear to have relied on a news release. But the story should have specified what role if any these 2 people had in creating this new recommendation. 

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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