Background and Aim: In today’s digital world, people with type 1 and 2 diabetes turn to peers on social media to exchange information and support. However, little is known about what the online sharing of diabetes-related information implies for the clinical encounter. This study examines how information that stems from social media is discussed in clinical encounters between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and people with diabetes (PWD) .
Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 PWD aged 22-76 (type 1: n= 17, type 2: n=8) and HCPs (nurses n=9, medical doctors n=7, dieticians n=3) . The participants were recruited from the diabetes outpatient care setting in Denmark. Two researchers independently developed a thematic coding framework that was compared, revised, and then applied to analyze each interview. Subsequently, overarching themes were identified across the whole data set.
Results: The first theme suggests that HCPs tend to have a ‘blind spot’ towards information that stems from social media: Most HCPs have not asked whether PWD retrieve information from social media and most PWD present information that is accessed on social media without naming their source. The second theme reflects that clinical dialogues about online information rest upon trustful relationships: PWD find online peer exchanges valuable and request for HCPs to acknowledge this. Still, PWD navigate large amounts of information and treatment advice online, and while PWD may seek to discuss their information in clinical encounters, initiating these dialogues is sensitive to the reactions of HCPs.
Discussion: The results suggest that HCPs should encourage curious dialogues about how PWD retrieve diabetes-related information. This serves for HCPs to learn what PWD gain from peers online and for HCPs to be able to offer their expertise to support PWD who are navigating large flows of information and advice online.
E.M.Kjærulff: None. M.A.Nexo: None. U.Bjerre-christensen: None. H.Langstrup: None.
Innovation Fund Denmark (Ref.no. 9163-00016B)