Use of clinical targets in diabetes patient education: qualitative analysis of the expectations and impact of a structured self-management programme in Type 1 diabetes

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Abstract

Aims

To explore the impact of education and target-setting on the life stories of patients with diabetes up to 10 years after they had participated in the Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating programme (DAFNE).

Methods

Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted before and after DAFNE courses to elicit narrative accounts from participants at three UK education centres. Observations of courses also took place. Data were gathered from 21 participants over 32 interviews and 146 h of observations, and analysed using a narrative approach.

Results

Findings suggest that patient education can create positive transformations in the lives of people with diabetes in ways that are not fully captured by simple quality-of-life scores. However, a review of evidence from other studies shows that DAFNE-recommended blood glucose results are in fact out of reach of even these most motivated and well-informed patients. This information was not shared with DAFNE attendees, who were expected to aim for near-normal HbA1c levels. After the course, participants sometimes perceived themselves as failing in their efforts, even when they had better than average blood glucose results.

Conclusions

Specific and measurable low HbA1c targets may be desirable for reducing the risk of complications in diabetes, but they are not attainable or realistic even for most DAFNE graduates. It is suggested that setting goals without information about how achievable they really are could be counterproductive in terms of supporting and maintaining patient self-efficacy long-term.

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