What people with diabetes wish their health professionals understood about diabetes

Two new ACBRD publications report on the unmet diabetes care needs of people with diabetes and tips for health professionals to address some of these needs

By Dr Christel Hendrieckx


Over its 10 years existence, the ACBRD has advocated for the integration of psychological care into clinical conversations. Our research has shown that many people with diabetes want to talk with their health professionals about how diabetes impacts their mood. This was again confirmed in the Diabetes MILES-2 survey, in which we asked adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes: “What do you wish your health professional understood about living with diabetes?” The responses of more than 1000 participants revealed many unmet needs and wishes for improving the support they receive. We identified seven themes summarising what participants would like health professionals to understand, including:

    1. the social and emotional impact of diabetes on their lives,
    2. the many barriers they encounter to managing diabetes (e.g. co-morbidities, financial consequences, etc),
    3. that ‘it’s easier said than done’,
    4. that they want, need and deserve more support
    5. that judgmental and negative language is not helpful,
    6. that they (their health professional) understood more about diabetes
    7. that the person with diabetes is the ‘expert’ in their diabetes.

It was clear that the person with diabetes did not always feel they were at the centre of their own diabetes care. Those who were satisfied with the care they received, valued being respected and listened to, they felt understood and made part of decision making.

In a second paper written for health professionals, we summarised these findings and provided corresponding ‘tips for more satisfying conversations’. These 10 tips are not ground breaking; they form part of person-centred care. For example,  showing empathy and active listening, supporting the person to set the consultation agenda and priorities, shared-decision making, using motivational language, and seeing each person as ‘unique’ (and not a ‘text book case’). These tips have been proven to be effective and powerful. Yet, these skills and behaviours remain underutilised within clinical care and some people with diabetes continue to wish for further support. Obtaining a better understanding of the person’s needs, informs a person-tailored support plan. This leads to more trustful and satisfying relationship for both parties. Having these holistic conversation is a skill that can be learned and resources are available to enhance consultations skills and confidence.

Litterbach E, Holmes-Truscott E, Pouwer F, Speight J, Hendrieckx C (2020) “I wish my health professionals understood that it’s not just all about your HbA1c!”. Qualitative responses from the second Diabetes MILES – Australia (MILES-2) study. Diabetic Medicine 37: 971–81.

Hendrieckx C, Holmes-Truscott E, Speight J (2020) Ten tips for more effective and satisfying clinical consultations. Journal of Diabetes Nursing 24(3):1-5