It Will Only Take a Minute: Pharmacists Empowering Patients to Determine Their Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

December 2013, Vol 1, No 2 - Inside Cardiometabolic: Diabetes
Gretchen F Jenkins, PharmD, BCACP

It can take as little as 1 minute to make a difference in the life and future of your pharmacy customers. Learn more about a simple tool to get you started.

There are approximately 25.8 million people in the United States living with diabetes; that is 8.3% of the population.1 The alarming facts are that, of that number, approximately 7 million are undiagnosed, and an additional 79 million have prediabetes.1 Type 2 diabetes often goes undetected because of the lack of overt symptoms at the onset of the disease.

Diabetes is diagnosed by a medical provider using a fasting plasma glucose level, oral glucose tolerance test, or hemoglobin A1c value. Therefore, people who do not see their medical provider on a regular basis for screenings and blood work often go undiagnosed for many years. However, disease progression and the comorbidities of diabetes are best minimized through early detection and intervention.

The Pharmacist’s Role

Pharmacists, the most accessible healthcare professionals, have the opportunity to raise awareness and educate patients regarding their diabetes risk. The Diabetes Risk Test is a simple tool that provides a risk score for type 2 diabetes, and the best part is that it can be completed in less than 1 minute.2 By reviewing the answers to this screening questionnaire, the pharmacist has a basis for providing therapeutic lifestyle recommendations and a guide for making referrals to medical healthcare professionals. This allows pharmacists to bridge the gap between patients and medical providers within the community.

Screening Tool

Published by the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Risk Test is comprised of 7 simple questions that help to determine someone’s risk for type 2 diabetes.2 Each answer is given a point value, which is then used to calculate the overall score. An overall score of 5 or more is indicative of an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.2 This validated diabetes screening tool is not cohort-specific but generalized to the entire adult US population, making it appropriate for any adult encountered within a US pharmacy setting.3

Designed to enable the layperson to assess his or her own risk, the tool is very user-friendly and does not need to be administered by a healthcare professional.3 The tool is ideal for use in the community pharmacy setting, because it is noninvasive. This screening may be more widely accepted by patients and pharmacists, because it does not require a fingerstick, and pharmacies do not have to maintain a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments waiver to provide this type of diabetes screening.

Eductating Patients

Taking this test allows a person to become aware of their modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk factors include physical activity and weight status. Nonmodifiable risk includes age, sex, family history, and any previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.2

Pharmacists can provide education to patients in areas where they have identified risk. Making patients aware of the risk factors they cannot change, especially that the risk increases with age, allows them to understand the importance of doing something about the risk they can change. This may give patients the motivation to adopt a healthy lifestyle by staying or becoming physically active and maintaining their goal weight. In addition, pharmacists can be a great resource for patients who want to learn about therapeutic lifestyle modifications by providing education on dietary changes or tips for increasing physical activity.


Remember that the Diabetes Risk Test is just a risk-screening tool, and patients should be seen by their medical provider for further testing. People who obtain a score of 5 or more on this screening tool, those who report diabetes-related symptoms, or those who have specific concerns regarding diabetes risk should always be seen by their medical healthcare provider.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Fact Sheet: National Estimates and General Information on Diabetes and Prediabetes in the United States, 2011. Accessed September 13, 2013.
  2. American Diabetes Association. Are You At Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Diabetes Risk Test. Accessed September 6, 2013.
  3. Bang H, Edwards A, Bomback A, et al. Development and validation of a patient self-assessment score for diabetes risk. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(11):775-783.
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Last modified: February 12, 2014
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