Interpreting diabetes mellitus: differences between patient and provider models of disease and their implications for clinical practice

Cult Med Psychiatry. 2000 Dec;24(4):379-401. doi: 10.1023/a:1005611207687.


Current medical literature suggests that Type 2 diabetes mellitus can be controlled by diet and hypoglycemic agents or diet and insulin therapy. Nevertheless, adhering to a low glucose dietary regimen remains problematic for a majority of patients, and management of the disease is an ongoing source of frustration for physicians and other providers. While calling for more research on the physician's experience of treating chronic conditions like diabetes, the authors argue that much of the current frustration stems from the different frames or explanatory models that physicians and patients use to understand the disease. By comparing physician narratives collected in several clinical contexts (e.g., medical lectures, precepting sessions, patient care sessions and personal interviews) with patient stories obtained primarily through narrative interviews, the authors highlight crucial differences in the way physicians and patients experience and think about the disease. In particular, the authors highlight differences between physicians and patients across five dimensions: etiology, symptoms/signs, factors which affect blood sugar, ideal blood sugar, and future prospects. In concluding, the authors sketch out elements of a theory of clinical practice involving diabetes care. Data for the study was collected at two family practice training sites in Chicago.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Chicago
  • Communication
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Self Care / methods
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Blood Glucose