Diabetes is one of the growing chronic health problems in the world, affecting approximately 415 million people. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin for bodily functions. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, myocardial infarction, stroke, and amputation. Thus, prevention of diabetes is the ultimate goal; however, effective management for patients already diagnosed with diabetes is critical to lessen the risk of complexity and the economic burden of the disease. Patient-physician communication can, therefore, be considered crucial in the management of diabetes.
Diabetes management requires patients to perform complex self-care regimens, including weight reduction, frequent blood glucose monitoring, taking oral and/or insulin medications, engaging in physical activity, adhering to diabetes nutrition guidelines, and attending clinic appointments. However, many patients fail to follow these rules due to various personal, financial and psychological reasons. Here patient-physician relationship plays an important role in maintaining self-care communication. To do this the physicians need to incorporate interpersonal and relational skills to establish the trust of patients. A physician needs to perform specific communication tasks and behaviors, including collecting a medical history, explaining a diagnosis and prognosis, and providing clear and concise therapeutic instructions, which in turn increases patient satisfaction, improves adherence to treatment regimens and leads to better clinical outcomes.
Various barriers appear during the communication process in the management of diabetes. From the physician’s side, not able to give time to patients is the most common problem. Also, lack of collaboration and teamwork among health care providers, lack of patients’ access to resources, and lack of psychosocial support for patients with diabetes hinder the treatment. For patients, it is always difficult to discuss their problems for fear of being judged or shamed about food intake and weight. Health literacy may also affect a patient’s willingness to discuss self-care during a medical visit.
Incorporating communication skills in continuing medical education and diabetes education may improve self-care communication in the physician-patient relationship. Educational programs that teach physicians how to provide consistent messages, repeat information, reinforce and offer feedback regarding specific self-care behaviors, and problem-solve self-care challenges may improve patient’s willingness to discuss self-care. Physician-patient self-care communication is essential to achieving optimal diabetes outcomes. Patients’ ability to inform physicians about their self-care challenges and physicians’ ability to respond to patients’ self-care reports directly and in non-accusatory language are vital factors in effective diabetes care.