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Disclosure of New Type 2 Diabetes Diagnoses to Younger Adults: a Qualitative Study

Adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a younger age are at increased risk for poor outcomes. Yet, little is known about the early experiences of these individuals, starting with communication of the diagnosis. Addressing this knowledge gap is important as this initial interaction may shape subsequent disease-related perceptions and self-management. We examined diagnosis disclosure experiences and initial reactions among younger adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Purposive sample of adult members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, an integrated healthcare delivery system, diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before age 45 years. We conducted six focus groups between November 2017 and May 2018. Transcribed audio recordings were coded by two coders using thematic analysis. Participants (n = 41) were 38.4 (± 5.8) years of age; 10 self-identified as Latinx, 12 as Black, 12 as White, and 7 as multiple or other races. We identified variation in diagnosis disclosure experiences, centered on four key domains: (1) participants’ sense of preparedness for diagnosis (ranging from expectant to surprised); (2) disclosure setting (including in-person, via phone, via secure message, or via review of results online); (3) perceived provider tone (from nonchalant, to overly fear-centered, to supportive); and (4) participants’ emotional reactions to receiving the diagnosis (including acceptance, denial, guilt, and/or fear, rooted in personal and family experience). For younger adults, the experience of receiving a diabetes diagnosis varies greatly. Given the long-term consequences of inadequately managed diabetes and the need for early disease control, effective initial disclosure represents an opportunity to optimize initial care. Our results suggest several opportunities to improve the type 2 diabetes disclosure experience: (1) providing pre-test counseling, (2) identifying patient-preferred settings for receiving the news, and (3) developing initial care strategies that acknowledge and address the emotional distress triggered by this life-altering, chronic disease diagnosis.

Authors: Gopalan, Anjali; Blatchins, Maruta A; Altschuler, Andrea; Mishra, Pranita; Fakhouri, Issa; Grant, Richard W

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 06;36(6):1622-1628. Epub 2021-01-26.

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