The experiences of people with type 2 diabetes in communicating with general practitioners in China – a primary care focus group study

Mi Yao, Dong-ying Zhang, Jie-ting Fan, Kai Lin, Shamil Haroon, Dawn Jackson, Hai Li , Wei Chen, KK Cheng, Richard Lehman

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With the implementation of health care reforms in China, primary care is on a journey to provide care for most patients with type 2 diabetes. While Chinese general practitioners (GPs) have described challenges in communication with diabetes patients in their daily practice, little is known about patients’ experiences in communicating with their GPs.

Five focus groups (of 4–5 participants each) were used to explore views from patients with type 2 diabetes. Purposive sampling was used to recruit a spread of participants from general practices in Guangzhou city, China. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed using the Framework Method.

Ten males and 12 female patients from five general practices participated in focus group discussions, with a mean age of 57.3 years and 7.3 years of diabetes duration. Five main themes emerged: patients’ understanding about diabetes, diabetes medication, communication with GPs, physician-patient relationships, and healthcare systems and context. Patients generally searched for information on the internet, but they weren’t always sure if it was trustworthy. Several communication needs were described by diabetes patients, such as explanation of blood glucose monitoring, medication information support, communication in the risk of diabetes complications and cardiovascular disease, and language barriers. Communication was frequently brief and not tailored to their concerns, and some described being scolded or panicked by GPs. Participants acknowledged the pressures within the health system, such as short consultation times, an incoherent GP-hospital interface and high demand.

Key issues from the patients’ perspective for the development of primary care based management of diabetes in China were identified. People with type 2 diabetes require more access to trustworthy diabetes information and wish for better channels of communication with their GPs. Strategies may be required to improve GPs’ communication skills with their patients that also consider the context of the wider health system environment in China.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Primary Care
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Yu Ding (Sun Yat-sen University) for her suggestions to the protocol of this study. We also greatly appreciate all the patients who participated in our research for their enormous support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Communication
  • General practice
  • Patients
  • Type 2 diabetes


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