My Diabetes Inklings

Patient Empowerment in Diabetes Self-Management

A while ago, I blogged about a patient led and patient authored series on BMJ called What Your Patient Is Thinking. I am so proud to read a piece published in this series by my good friend and past president of the International Diabetes Federation’s Young Leaders in Diabetes programme Alex Silverstein. His topic was on what people with diabetes need to manage self-care and he pretty much nailed it. 

Diabetes self-management is more than just regular medical appointments and discussing numbers. It’s more than providing people with diabetes with a blood glucose meter, tablets and insulin. People living with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, need emotional support alongside medical advice. This is no secret with plenty of literature within literature supporting this. The biggest factor in diabetes self-management lies within the person. And what better way to engage a person with diabetes that to empower them in their self-management.

I have heard too many stories of healthcare professionals who insist on maintaining an authoritative relationship with patients. This traditional viewpoint results in healthcare professionals prescribing solutions to patients with minimal consideration of other circumstances. For the management of a chronic condition such as diabetes, where a multitude of factors impact daily management, this automatically set patients up for failure. As a result, patients are labelled as ‘non-compliant’, or ‘in denial’ and often made to feel guilty for not achieving their health targets.

Patient empowerment talks about changing that power dynamic between healthcare professionals and patients. Healthcare professionals acknowledge that patients are experts in their medical condition in relation to their life and help patients make informed decisions about their condition by providing expert medical advice. Patients work with their healthcare professional to set achievable targets and strategies around their life circumstance. This partnership sees both the healthcare professional and patient as equals and collaborators towards a shared goal. By listening to the needs of their patients, healthcare professionals can direct their efforts and time to the best way to help their patients.

Some healthcare professionals and patients alike may disagree with this. And that’s absolutely fine. It’s all about finding what works best for both parties. Even the simple acknowledgment that what works for one person may not work for another is an important milestone in healthcare.

Quality of life should not be the focus only in hospitals and palliative care. For those living with chronic conditions, quality of life extends to so much more. It becomes the ability to allow individuals to live lives to their potential with minimal interruptions from health demands.

Thank you Alex for contributing to BMJ on this important topic. I’m glad and excited to see topics like these become more prominent on social media and in emerging research. I am certainly looking forward to the day where I stop hearing horror stories about healthcare professionals being portrayed as bullies and hearing more stories of them being valued for their amazing work.

Read Alex’s piece published in the BMJ series: What I Need To Self Manage My Care.

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