Limited English can impact patients with Diabetes
A research study of 31,000 patients with diabetes in Northern California found that sixty percent of Spanish-speaking Latino patients did not fill their prescriptions around twenty percent of the time. This was during a two-year period after they were told they needed the medication to control the disease.
The rate was about 52 percent among English-speaking Latino patients and about 38 percent among white patients. Dr. Alicia Fernandez, who is a researcher at San Francisco General Hospital says, “Latino patients with diabetes, even when insured and facing relatively low barriers to healthcare, are much more likely to have poor medication adherence than their white counterparts.”
In the study there was no difference in medication adherence for diabetics with less knowledge of the English language or if the patients saw Spanish-speaking doctors. In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there is a suggestion that there is more than just language being the barrier.
“Physicians who care for Latino patients with diabetes should focus on medication adherence and explore individual barriers to adherence, said Fernandez “These may include lack of buy-in to medication treatment, concern regarding side effects, concerns regarding costs, and completing life demands on medication use and self-care.”
Another study of over 1,600 Latino patients showed that there was a ten percent increase in the proportion of patients with glycemic control among those who switched from physicians with language conflicts to those without.
Fifty four percent of the patients saw a primary care provider who did not speak Spanish. During the study, 48 percent of the patients switched to a Spanish- speaking doctor. After the switch, 74 percent of the patients had their blood sugar in a healthy range. This was a ten percent different to their English-speaking counterparts.
In conclusion, JAMA suggests that physicians who care for Latinos with diabetes, and have little command of English, may help improve glycemic control by facilitating care of these patients to someone who can speak the same language. Sometimes that means switching to a Latino doctor.
Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities said, “Communication between clinicians and patients is essential in most aspects of medicine but is especially true in management of a chronic disease such as diabetes.”