Reasoning about diabetes and its relationship to the use of telecommunication technology by patients and physicians

Kayla N. Cytryn, Vimla L. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Health care is moving toward a team effort, with patients as partners. This requires effective communication between physicians and patients, who have different understandings of health and illness. These understandings in turn guide their decisions about management of health and illness. With the introduction of home-based technology, which provides an efficient way for doctors and patients to communicate, the question of the effectiveness of the decisions being made must be addressed. In this study, we assess the conceptualizations of health and illness related to diabetes and the relationship to the use of communication technology by patients and physicians. Methods: The subjects were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire and were then asked to enter information into a telephone-based telecommunications system. Data were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed to characterize models of health and illness and for the factors that influence the decision making about diabetes management. Interactions with the system were then examined relative to these findings. Results: Patients used lay concepts in providing explanations of their illness, whereas physicians used biomedical concepts. Use of these differing concepts influenced the use of telecommunication technology, with more errors in the communication of information being made by patients than by physicians. Examination of the organization of information required by the system showed it to be incongruent with the way patients normally reason, but in agreement with the way physicians reason. The paper discusses the implications of these findings for: (a) the nature of evidence used by patients and physicians; and (b) the design of technology to maximize effective doctor-patient communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-151
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 1998


  • Decision making
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Physician-patient relations
  • Telecommunications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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