News & Views

‘We need to be talking the language of patients, not the language of medicine’

Diabetes is one of the biggest global health challenges right now. In Europe, around one in 11 adults are living with the condition. In the US and Caribbean, this figure rises to one in seven. With type 2 diabetes accounting for about nine in 10 cases, it’s vital patients receive the best care, treatments and information to help them live well with the condition.

Mark Duman was 42 years old when he discovered he had type 2 diabetes. Now 54, he says it took eight years before the implications of his diagnosis sank in. This was largely due to the medicalised language generally used by the healthcare system rather than, as he puts it, ‘the language of patients’.

Mark has been working closely with the A Life in a Day team and contributed to the development of our new, immersive type 2 diabetes experience. Like all our experiences, it aims to help healthcare and pharma professionals become much more ‘patient obsessed’ to ultimately improve patient care. The more these sectors can put patients at the heart of everything they do, the better the outcomes will be for those patients. It’s that simple.

Here, Mark shares his story and why he thinks our A Life in a Day of a patient with type 2 diabetes experience is a ‘must do’ for everyone working in this specialism.

Living with type 2 diabetes

“I found out I had type 2 diabetes by accident when I was applying for critical illness cover as part of my life insurance. I had to take an oral glucose tolerance test and that’s when I was told. 

I was a bit shocked. My father had diabetes when he was alive but he got it later in life. While I was overweight with a higher BMI, I wasn’t huge.

My healthcare team talked to me about my BMI and LDL [low-density lipoprotein] and HbA1c levels. As a former pharmacist I understood the meaning of these terms but emotionally, it didn’t hit me for about eight years. I didn’t feel much consideration was given to how my type 2 diabetes affected different parts of my life or how to get the support to help me deal with that.

It was only when I was sitting with my daughter eating some ice cream (for breakfast!) that I looked at her and suddenly thought, ‘If I continue this lifestyle I may not be here in 10 years’ time to hopefully see you getting married. If I’m still here I may have problems with my eyes or nerves. I may not have my feet’. Suddenly those complications felt more real and that’s when I knew I had to take my type 2 diabetes seriously.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to put my type 2 diabetes into remission through lifestyle changes.

Why language matters

Conversations about HbA1c and LDL levels, BMI and other medical things like that didn’t really resonate with me. If I’d been told something like, ‘Mark, you’re 54 years old but your heart age is 68, or your kidney age is 72’, I’d have sat up and taken notice earlier.

We need to be talking the language of patients, not the language of medicine. But this involves those working in healthcare having the ability to shape care around each person’s specific needs, and this can only be done if there’s a proper understanding of the impact a chronic condition has on your mood, body, work and personal relationships.

A Life in a Day type 2 diabetes experience

Working with the A Life in a Day team and helping them shape their new type 2 diabetes experience has been a privilege.

This experience is something that I’d recommend to anybody involved in diabetes care, policy and research. I don’t think there’s enough understanding amongst healthcare professionals or the pharma industry about how hard it can be for a patient to live day and night with a condition like type 2 diabetes.

The A Life in a Day of a patient with type 2 diabetes experience is very realistic; I’ve lived with diabetes for years and wasn’t sure it was going to teach me anything new, but it did. 

There were certain things I had assumed about the condition, such as people with type 2 diabetes not needing to inject insulin, that I discovered were incorrect. It really opened my eyes to things I hadn’t been aware of before. If it can do that with me, imagine how much it could help pharma and healthcare professionals to put patients’ needs front and centre of everything they do. 

It’s so much more impactful than reading about type 2 diabetes in a textbook or seeing patients purely in a clinical setting. It’s a really engaging way to better understand patient experience and thus provide more effective care and support.”

Want to know more about how our type 2 diabetes experience can help you improve patient outcomes? Contact us for more information.

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