Background: Diabetes and hypertension are chronic conditions for which over 90 % of patients require medication regimens that must be intensified over time. However, delays in intensification are common, and may be partially due to unrealistic patient expectations.
Objective: To explore whether patient expectations regarding their diabetes and hypertension are congruent with the natural history of these conditions.
Design: Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews.
Participants: Sixty adults from an urban academic primary care clinic taking oral medications for both diabetes (duration <10 years) and hypertension (any duration) MAIN MEASURES: (1) Expectations for their a) current diabetes and hypertension medications, b) need for additional medications, c) likelihood of cure (not requiring medications); (2) preferences for receiving information on expected duration of treatments KEY RESULTS: The average patient age was 60 years, and 65 % were women. Nearly half (48 %) of participants expected to discontinue current diabetes medications in 6 years or less, whereas only one-fifth (22 %) expected to take medications for life. For blood pressure medications, one-third (37 %) expected to stop medicines in 6 years or less, and one-third expected to take medicines for life. The vast majority did not expect that they would need additional medications in the future (oral diabetes medications: 85 %; insulin: 87 %; hypertension medications: 93 %). A majority expected that their diabetes (65 %) and hypertension (58 %) would be cured. Most participants believed that intensifying lifestyle changes would allow them to discontinue medications, avoid additional medications, or cure their diabetes and hypertension. Nearly all participants (97 %) wanted to hear information on the expected duration of their diabetes and hypertension treatments from their healthcare provider.
Conclusions: Providers should educate patients on the natural history of diabetes and hypertension in order to manage patient expectations for current and future medications. Future research should assess whether education can increase the adoption of and adherence to medications, without diminishing enthusiasm for lifestyle changes.
Keywords: clinical inertia; diabetes; hypertension; patients’ expectations.