"They are talking from the Encyclopedia Britannica brain": diabetes patients' perceptions of barriers to communicating with physicians

BMC Health Serv Res. 2020 Mar 13;20(1):211. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-5063-4.


Background: Understanding patients' beliefs about their role communicating in medical visits is an important pre-requisite to encourage patients' use of active participatory communication, and these beliefs may be particularly relevant for patients with diabetes.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted to examine patients with diabetes view of their role communicating in medical encounters. Patients had type 2 diabetes, A1C ≥ 8% (64 mmol/mol), and were from an inner-city VA hospital. Guiding questions for the focus groups were based on theoretical models of patient-physician communication. Focus group transcripts were analyzed with the constant comparative method.

Results: Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 20 male Veterans. Participants mean age was 61 years, 65% self-identified as black or African-American, 80% completed high school or higher education, and mean A1C was 10.3% (89 mmol/mol). Eight themes were identified as to why patients might have difficulty communicating with physicians. These themes were grouped into three overarching categories explaining reasons why patients might avoid participatory communication and included patients' view about their condition; about physician's communication behaviors; and about external influences on patient-physician communication. For example, patients described how use of the EHR may deter patients' use of active participatory communication.

Conclusions: These results are important for understanding how patients' use of active participatory communication is influenced by their beliefs and expectations, physicians' behaviors, and structural factors. The results may be useful for educational efforts to increase patient, physician, and healthcare systems awareness of problems that patients perceive when communicating with physicians.

Keywords: Patient participation; Patient-physician relations; Qualitative research; Type 2 diabetes mellitus; Veterans.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data