Tallinn University of Technology

This year, Marge Laane, a health care technology student at Tallinn University of Technology, completed her master’s thesis on diabetes literacy, which focused on the patients’ poor health awareness.

During the study, 10 diabetes specialist nurses across Estonia were interviewed to map the problems that arise when dealing with patients with diabetes. The results of the master’s thesis showed that diabetes specialist nurses need more support and training from the health care system in providing high-quality health information to patients. The majority of nurses interviewed during the study, 70 per cent, are dissatisfied with the quality of the existing methods of communication and find that providing individual appointments and distributing paper brochures is not sufficient to provide the information needed to manage diabetes in the long term. Nurses say most patients simply do not read the information on the brochure, which is why outdated study materials have to be updated urgently and more interdisciplinary solutions are needed – for example, in the form of educational videos or other digital solutions.

Communication skills between patients and health professionals also pose a problem for people with diabetes. According to Marge Laane, patients often find themselves in a situation where the story told to a doctor or nurse differs significantly from what is actually done at home. As a result, medical professionals increasingly need training and support from the government and employers to develop communication skills, create a sense of security, and use modern information channels.

As at 2017, there are 55,300 diabetic patients in Estonia, accounting for 5.3 percent of the adult population. According to a global estimate, by 2045, there will be approximately 629 million people affected. Alongside pharmacological treatment of the disease, patients are increasingly being directed towards lifestyle changes, with a particular focus on the importance of moderate exercise and a balanced diet to help prevent serious complications. It is important that the necessary information about the disease is communicated to the patient as soon as possible after the diagnosis so that the person understands the nature of diabetes, is motivated to control the disease, and develops healthy lifestyle habits.