Primary care physicians' perceptions of diabetes management. A balancing act

J Fam Pract. 1999 Jan;48(1):37-42.


Background: Studies demonstrate significant shortfalls in the quality of care for diabetes. Primary care physicians' views of the management of diabetes have been inadequately explored. The objective of our study was to describe primary care physicians' attitudes toward diabetes, patients with diabetes, and diabetes care.

Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted by a trained research interviewer with a sample of 10 family physicians and 9 internists in Connecticut. Interviews lasted an average of 60 minutes and were audiotaped and transcribed. Data were interpreted by a multidisciplinary team using a standard qualitative text analysis methodology. Themes from each interview were used to identify and develop overall themes related to the areas of inquiry.

Results: Physicians' goals were congruent with current guidelines emphasizing the importance of good glycemic control and prevention of complications. However, physicians noted the challenge of balancing the multiple goals of ideal diabetes care and the realities of patient adherence, expectations, and circumstances. The majority of physicians described a patient-centered management style, but a substantial minority described a more paternalistic approach. Physicians did not identify or describe office systems for facilitating diabetes management. Differences between family physicians and internists did not emerge.

Conclusions: The complexity of diabetes care recommendations coupled with the need to tailor recommendations to individual patients produces wide variation in diabetes care. Improvement in care may depend on (1) prioritizing diabetes care recommendations for patients as individuals, (2) improving physicians' motivational counseling skills and enhancing their ability to deal with challenging patients, and (3) developing office systems and performance enhancement efforts that support cost-effective practice and patient adherence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Connecticut
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Perception
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*