Survey Report: Doctors’ Opinion on Role of Patient & Family Education in Diabetes Management
Diabetes has assumed epidemic proportions in India. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 130mn Indians will become diabetic. Diabetes is most prevalent due to its asymptomatic nature and poor awareness among the general population. Education & counseling of patients & their families could play a crucial role in preventing or delaying onset, improving compliance to treatment and lowering the risk of complications. Pharma companies could go beyond the pill and introduce different initiatives to raise awareness around diabetes and also support doctors in educating & counseling patients & their families.
In order to know Doctors’ views on the role of patient/family education in prevention & management of diabetes, we conducted a survey among our community members.
Aim: To understand the key challenges faced by doctors in raising awareness about diabetes and identify their needs in educating patients.
Methodology: A nationwide online poll on Docplexus platform
Respondents: 2,169 Diabetologists, Endocrinologists, Consulting Physicians, GPs, Pediatricians, Ophthalmologists, Community Medicine Practitioners.
A Huge Unmet Need To Educate Patients & Families
A study published in BMC Medicine notes that only half of all diabetics in India are aware of their condition and only a quarter has it under control. In our survey, 81% of doctors stated that patients & families are completely unaware of common symptoms associated with diabetes such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss & blurred vision, before its onset. Even those diagnosed as diabetic do not have sufficient information to manage their condition effectively. Patients and their caregivers have to be proficient in home-monitoring of blood glucose levels and self-injection of insulin. They also need to know how to adjust doses of insulin. Lack of complete information on the above may lead to poor control of blood sugar.
Clearly, there is a high need to impart diabetes education in India. Evidence suggests that more knowledge about the disorder can promote treatment compliance and bring down complications such as retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, diabetic foot, periodontitis, and kidney disease. Better awareness can lead to regular screening at an early age. This would be highly beneficial in the case of pre-diabetes, where timely lifestyle interventions can completely avert or delay the onset of diabetes.
Our survey respondents assert that diabetes awareness programs (48%) are effective in educating the population about the risk factors, symptoms, diagnostic tests, complications & other aspects.
Screening & Counseling Of Family Members Is Important
A family history of Type 2 Diabetes is a strong risk factor for its affliction. In our survey, 57% of doctors said that they frequently advise family members of their patients to get screened for diabetes. 54% of doctors note that over 25% of the family members thus screened, are diagnosed as diabetic.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires patients to adhere to a strict regime consisting of proper diet, regular exercise, stress management & timely medication. In this scenario, family support can play an important role in improving health outcomes. This is especially important in case of children.
29% of the doctors who took our survey strongly advocate counseling of patients and family members for better informing them about different aspects of the disease. A majority (56%) of the doctors surveyed said they counsel their patients/families at every visit while 37% said they do it after diagnosis. Such counseling can also help alleviate the huge emotional toll that living with diabetes takes on patients and caregivers.
Myths & Misconceptions Pose A Challenge
Close to 50% of the doctors surveyed stated that myths and misconceptions about diabetes come in the way of its effective management.
The most common misbelief among Indian patients, according to the doctors, is that herbal treatments can completely cure diabetes. Many patients are known to choose alternative treatments over modern medicine as they believe modern medicine has side effects while those therapies don’t. This is a serious problem as these patients approach allopathic doctors only when the disease has progressed and serious complications have developed.
The 2nd most common misconception is that bitter foods can lower elevated sugar levels. Also, many patients believe that diabetes treatment can be discontinued within a month, once the sugar levels are in check. Some even feel that if they are diagnosed with diabetes, they won’t be able to consume any form of sugar, ever.
These false notions coupled with overall ignorance about the disorder are one of the major reasons for poor management of diabetes in India. There is an urgent need for various healthcare stakeholders including Pharma to assist doctors in dispelling these myths & convincing patients to get treated the right way.
Doctors Want Educational Resources
96% of doctors believe that educating/counseling patients about the misconceptions could lower disease prevalence. But, one of the challenges mentioned by doctors in educating/counseling patients is the lack of informative resources that can be shared with their patients during consultation. Almost all doctors expressed their desire to receive educational material such as patient education kits, booklets, videos, etc.
The said material could help doctors make patients & family members better understand diabetes as a serious illness needing continuous attention & care. Our survey shows that video is doctors’ most preferred format (37%) of educational content, followed by booklets (34%). Interestingly, maximum physicians (66%) favor digital educational content such as infographics, pdf documents & videos.
How Can Pharma Help?
High emphasis placed by doctors on educating & counseling patients for better management of diabetes & the willingness of an overwhelming majority of practitioners to use informative material for the same, should be leveraged by Pharma to provide value-added services to their customers & consumers. At present, the treating physician shoulders much of the responsibility of educating the patients & their families. Pharma could assist by providing educational content for doctors, and, for doctors to share with patients & family members.
Content of these education kits could cover
- Basics of Diabetes Mellitus
- Risk factors
- Do’s & Don’ts
- When to see the doctor
- Things to ask the doctor
- Myths vs Facts
Apart from the above, Pharma could launch community educational programs to build large scale awareness around early testing, lifestyle modifications & treatment options. Also, patient support programs, online & offline, in collaboration with physicians and government bodies could help patients/families understand how to monitor blood glucose levels at home and adjust doses of insulin. Such initiatives will drive up compliance with therapy.
Pharma could also conduct online CME courses to educate maximum HCPs on nutrition in diabetes, an area that the medical curriculum does not cover in-depth. This would help them better address the diet & nutrition-related queries during counseling sessions.
Docplexus, a community of 350,000+ doctors, provides online resources to HCPs for learning and acts as a channel of medical dialogue & discussion. We offer Pharma companies innovative Content Marketing Solutions like Infocenters, KOL Webinars, Online CMEs, Mindset Analysis, and Sponsored Medical Updates.