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Tan AM, Muthusamy L, Ng CC, Phoon KY, Ow JH, Tan NC
Correspondence: Ms Tan Ai Meng, email@example.com
Introduction Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a progressive condition in which the pancreatic beta-cell function deteriorates with increasing duration of the disease. When good glycaemic control is not achieved despite adherence to oral hypoglycaemic drugs, healthy diet and lifestyle, insulin should be initiated. However, this is often delayed due to various reasons. We aimed to determine the issues relating to insulin initiation for diabetic patients managed in primary care polyclinics in Singapore.
Methods Qualitative data was obtained during four focus group discussions, with participation from healthcare professionals (HCPs), including physicians and nurses, and type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. The data was transcribed into text, coded and grouped into themes.
Results Launching the topic and doctor-patient communication on insulin therapy were key issues in insulin initiation. Patient barriers to insulin commencement included: refusal to acknowledge the need for insulin therapy; its perception as a social stigma, an inconvenient mode of treatment or punishment for failure; and fear of needles, side-effects and complications. The HCP’s attitude and experience with insulin therapy were also possible barriers.
Conclusion Our findings highlight that insulin initiation is affected by the complex interaction between the patients and HCPs, and other system factors. Patients may harbour misconceptions about insulin due to the late introduction of insulin therapy by HCPs or the way the therapy is being communicated to them. The key issues to address are the disparity in perceptions of diabetic control between HCPs and patients, and education regarding the need for insulin therapy.
Keywords: diabetes mellitus, insulin
Singapore Med J 2011; 52(11): 801-809