How People With Diabetes Can Set the Tone For Communication with Healthcare Providers

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How People With Diabetes Can Set the Tone For Communication with Healthcare Providers

Contributor: Barbara Eichorst, MS, RD, CDE, Diabetes Clinical Liaison,

In partnership with 

Communication between people with diabetes (PWD) and healthcare providers (HCPs) is one of the most important factors in managing diabetes. What we say and how we say it can set a tone for a concordance needed to deliver on mutually agreed treatment goals and outcomes.

As a HCP, I have always tried to use words that heal, motivate and empower. Focus on what ‘can be done’ instead of what ‘cannot’. Focus on patient’s agenda first, and try to come up with solutions that are meaningful and doable.

I have never been in favour of words that are judgemental and discouraging like compliance, adherence, avoid, cannot, and don't. All of the HCPs care about PWD, but sometimes our empathy is deliver in an ugly language package. Consequently, we are all excited to have a new guidelines published that outline some useful approaches to effectively communicate with PWD.

The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education published last year in Diabetes Care came up with five recommendations: 

“1. Use language that is neutral, nonjudgmental, and based on facts, actions, or physiology/biology
2. Use language that is free from stigma
3. Use language that is strengths-based, respectful, inclusive and imparts hope
4. Use language that fosters collaboration between patients and providers
5. Use language that is person-centered.” (1)

Positive words can relive mental burden, uplift, strengthen our relationships, support and improve productivity of our conversations. As HCPs we continue to pay attention to what we say and how we say to our patients. Especially, when most of the information we share with PWD is forgotten shortly after, and what is remembered is often incorrect.

Therefore, as a PWD you can contribute to the effective communication by the use of:

1. “Teach back method “ by summarizing your understanding of what was just communicated to you. You can say: ‘ so, what you are saying is ….”

2. State your expectations at the beginning middle and end. Indicate what you hope to achieve with this visit. Reflect on the information that was shared thought out the consultation. Indicate 2-3 action items for you and for your provider by the end.  

3. Pay attention to how you feel when communicating with your HCP. The goal is not just have your questions answered but minimize stress, promote wellness and just feel better. 

As speechmaker Carl Buehner said, “They may forget what you said—but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope that you and your HCPs have a great communications and relationships that are productive, informative and fun!

(1) The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education. Jane K. Dickinson, Susan J. Guzman, Melinda D. Maryniuk, Catherine A. O’Brian, Jane K. Kadohiro, Richard A. Jackson, Nancy D’Hondt, Brenda Montgomery, Kelly L. Close, Martha M. Funnell. Diabetes Care. Dec 2017, 40 (12) 1790-1799

Barbara joined Voluntis in January 2018 as a Diabetes Clinical Liaison. Prior to Voluntis, Barbara has worked with Healthy Interactions as Vice President of Clinical Care on a global program that involved over 120 countries.  With the Conversation Map program, she has traveled to over 40 countries within the last eleven years.

Barbara’s experience also includes work in Chicago as insulin education specialist and a medical liaison. Barbara’s professional experience includes work at American Association of Diabetes Educators as a program director.  Also, at the Chicago based Rush University Medical Center, Barbara was a diabetes program manager.  She has provided patient education in diabetes, weight management, cardiovascular disease among many other chronic conditions at Loyola University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  Barbara’s professional focus is on behavioural interventions in disease management. She has contributed to multiple publications with her expertise in change activation, empowerment and engagement.