Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Talking it out: How diabetics benefit from diagnosis conversations with doctors

Early conversations between physicians and diabetes patients are not only critical for patients’ emotional well-being but they also predict the degree to which patients keep up with treatment.

There are some 36.8 million diabetics in the Middle East and North Africa, with the highest number of patients in Egypt, and the highest prevalence of the disease in Saudi Arabia, followed closely by Kuwait. In 2014 alone, the region spent a staggering $16.8 billion on healthcare in relation to treating or preventing diabetes –  a strain on the developing countries’ collectives economies. Around 363,000 died last year from diabetes and/or its complications, 53% of which are below the age of 60.

But little changes can make a difference, new information reveals, positively affecting the quality of life (and treatment) of diabetics.

Diagnosis conversations with doctors for one help diabetics accept the fact that the ailment – especially the often-fatal and more prominent Type 2 – is here to stay, in other words a life-time partner; these conversations are also associated with more commitment to the prescribed courses of treatment, reveals “IntroDia” a global survey about type 2 diabetes.

The survey, carried out by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company in partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), launched in 2013 and has since then investigated conversations between over 6,000 doctors and 10,000 patients across 26 countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The survey is ongoing but the initial results were released in September 2014.

Around 60 physicians from Saudi Arabia and the UAE participated in the survey – which revealed that unfortunately the behavioral changes by patients (or the lack thereof) as well as the preliminary conversations with doctors on the onset of diagnosis are far from enough to curb the damage – both emotional and physical.

Patients revert to old habits, say panelists at Arab Health Congress happening in Dubai this week, and physicians have complained that they need more “tools” to help them make sure that people with type 2 diabetes sustain behavioral changes needed for treatment success.

“They need more time, for instance, with the patients,” explains Karim Al Alaoui, managing director of Boehringer Ingelheim for Middle East, Turkey and Africa, among other things.

During the initial stages of diagnosis, says Abdulrazzaq Al Madani, consultant endocrinologist and physician at the Dubai Hospital and chairman of the Emirates Diabetes society, UAE, patients experience anger, stress and frustration; “it’s the idea that they have to live with this disease forever. It’s a permanent change.”

Treatment success depends on how the patients accept their condition, and the efficacy of medications in equal parts, says Al Alaoui, based on the survey results.

The final conclusions of the survey will be showcased in full later this year. The companies and the IDF are hoping that the insights therein would be used to develop resources to help physicians provide adequate support for patients.

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