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Online Education May Help Reduce Fear of Insulin in Type 2

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Online Education May Help Reduce Fear of Insulin in Type 2

An online education program may help adults with type 2 diabetes overcome fear or hesitation about starting to take insulin, according to a recent study published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

Typically, people who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes start taking an oral drug to lower their blood glucose levels — usually metformin, which may also be combined with other glucose-lowering drugs either right away or later on. But when oral drugs and non-insulin injected drugs can no longer keep a person’s blood glucose levels in check, doctors will often consider adding insulin as a treatment for type 2 — often a long-acting insulin that is injected once daily. People with type 2 may be hesitant to start taking insulin for a number of reasons. They may know someone with diabetes who experienced a decline in health after starting on insulin — which may not have been related at all to the insulin — or they could be afraid of needles or administering their own injection. Some people may also wonder whether the benefits of taking insulin outweigh the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)an important question to discuss with your doctor. In any case, it’s worth noting that the insulin your doctor may recommend for your diabetes is not the insulin your grandma took — use of long-acting insulin analogs, which may carry a lower risk for hypoglycemia than older insulin types, and convenient insulin pens are now commonplace for type 2.

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For the latest study, researchers were interested in whether a specially designed education program could help candidates for insulin therapy with type 2 overcome any hesitation they might have. They recruited 35 participants, all of them adults with type 2 diabetes who used oral diabetes drugs, had access to the Internet, and had no prior experience administering injections. To participate in the study, they also had to indicate that they were “not at all, “not very,” or “moderately” willing to start taking insulin, as noted in a Healio article on the study.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two different study groups — an intervention group that took part in the online education program, or a control group that was given a link to simple fact sheets about diabetes. The online education program was designed to address eight different potential psychological barriers to taking insulin. Each potential barrier was addressed on a different web page, each with a heading framed as a question such as, “Does insulin mean my diabetes is more serious?” Before being used for the study, the content of each page was reviewed by both experts and six volunteers with type 2 diabetes.

Reduction in negative views toward insulin seen after online education program

Out of the 17 participants in the intervention group and 18 in the control group, 15 in the intervention group and 13 in the control group completed a follow-up survey. While all members of the intervention group said the web pages they viewed had “the right information,” only 69% of the control group said the same about their generic fact sheets. What’s more, two weeks after viewing the education resource, members of the intervention group showed a reduction in their negative views toward taking insulin — while there was no such decline in negative views toward insulin in the control group. In both groups, there was no change after two weeks in levels of reported diabetes-related knowledge, self-efficacy, or distress.

The researchers concluded that this small study confirms the feasibility of conducting a larger study on how an online education resource affects feelings toward taking insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. Even more research would be needed to find out if this kind of online resource might have an effect on whether people start taking insulin, or on their self-care behaviors or blood glucose control once they start in insulin therapy.

Want to learn more about insulin? Read “What Does Insulin Do?,” “Insulin Basics,” and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Injecting Insulin.”

Want to learn how to overcome needle phobia? Read “Tips for Overcoming a Fear of Needles.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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