The relative importance of physician communication, participatory decision making, and patient understanding in diabetes self-management

J Gen Intern Med. 2002 Apr;17(4):243-52. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2002.10905.x.


Objective: Patients' self-management practices have substantial consequences on morbidity and mortality in diabetes. While the quality of patient-physician relations has been associated with improved health outcomes and functional status, little is known about the impact of different patient-physician interaction styles on patients' diabetes self-management. This study assessed the influence of patients' evaluation of their physicians' participatory decision-making style, rating of physician communication, and reported understanding of diabetes self-care on their self-reported diabetes management.

Design: We surveyed 2,000 patients receiving diabetes care across 25 Veterans' Affairs facilities. We measured patients' evaluation of provider participatory decision making with a 4-item scale (Provider Participatory Decision-making Style [PDMstyle]; alpha = 0.96), rating of providers' communication with a 5-item scale (Provider Communication [PCOM]; alpha = 0.93), understanding of diabetes self-care with an 8-item scale (alpha = 0.90), and patients' completion of diabetes self-care activities (self-management) in 5 domains (alpha = 0.68). Using multivariable linear regression, we examined self-management with the independent associations of PDMstyle, PCOM, and Understanding.

Results: Sixty-six percent of the sample completed the surveys (N = 1,314). Higher ratings in PDMstyle and PCOM were each associated with higher self-management assessments (P < .01 in all models). When modeled together, PCOM remained a significant independent predictor of self-management (standardized beta: 0.18; P < .001), but PDMstyle became nonsignificant. Adding Understanding to the model diminished the unique effect of PCOM in predicting self-management (standardized beta: 0.10; P =.004). Understanding was strongly and independently associated with self-management (standardized beta: 0.25; P < .001).

Conclusion: For these patients, ratings of providers' communication effectiveness were more important than a participatory decision-making style in predicting diabetes self-management. Reported understanding of self-care behaviors was highly predictive of and attenuated the effect of both PDMstyle and PCOM on self-management, raising the possibility that both provider styles enhance self-management through increased patient understanding or self-confidence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Self Care / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome