Patients with Diabetes Rank Health Concerns Differently than Their Doctors, Survey Shows

About one-third of doctors and their patients with diabetes do not see eye to eye on the most important health conditions to manage, according to a survey by the University of Michigan Medical School.

While both groups frequently ranked diabetes and hypertension among their top concerns, 38% of doctors were more likely to rank hypertension as the most important, while only 18% of diabetics said it was the most important. Patients were also more likely to prioritize symptoms such as pain and depression.

According to a news release, the findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine and may shed light on why some patients manage their diabetes so poorly.

“We actually found that most patients and their providers do agree on which conditions should be prioritized. Both ranked diabetes and hypertension very high on their lists,” Donna M. Zulman, MD, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan Medical School and researcher at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System in Ann Arbor, said.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and VA surveyed 92 doctors and their nearly 1,200 patients who had diabetes and hypertension. Of the 714 pairs, 28% did not prioritize health conditions the same way. The discord was strongest among the sickest patients.

“We were concerned that for 28% of pairs, the provider did not rank the patient’s top priority,” Zulman told O&P Business News. “This suggests a need to encourage patients and providers to discuss what they think is most important and why, in hopes of ultimately coming to an agreement on what should be prioritized. Both sets of priorities are valid, however if both patients and their providers are fully informed about why the other party is prioritizing certain conditions, they may actually be able to come to a consensus about how to move forward together.”

On average adults with diabetes have at least three other chronic health conditions. It means their doctors face the challenge of addressing multiple complex conditions in a brief office visit.

“I think it all boils down to open communication … asking patients what is most important to them and why, Zulman said. “If a provider understands how a patient’s pain affects his life and his ability to care for himself, the provider might agree that controlling pain should take priority.”

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