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Keywords:

  • flexible intensive insulin therapy;
  • qualitative longitudinal research;
  • structured education programme;
  • Type 1 diabetes

Diabet. Med. 28, 532–538 (2011)

Abstract

Background  Conventional insulin therapy requires patients with Type 1 diabetes to adhere to rigid dietary and insulin injection practices. Recent trends towards flexible intensive insulin therapy enable patients to match insulin to dietary intake and lifestyle; however, little work has examined patients’ experiences of incorporating these practices into real-life contexts. This qualitative longitudinal study explored patients’ experiences of using flexible intensive insulin therapy to help inform the development of effective long-term support.

Methods  Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 adult patients with Type 1 diabetes following participation in a structured education programme on using flexible intensive insulin therapy, and 6 and 12 months post-course. Longitudinal data analysis used an inductive, thematic approach.

Results  Patients consistently reported feeling committed to and wanting to sustain flexible intensive insulin therapy. This regimen was seen as a logical and effective method of self-management, as patients experienced improved blood glucose readings and/or reported feeling better. Implementing and sustaining flexible intensive insulin therapy was enhanced when patients had stable routines, with more challenges reported by those working irregular hours and during weekends/holidays. Some patients re-crafted their lives to make this approach work for them; for instance, by creating dietary routines or adjusting dietary choices.

Conclusions  Clinical data have shown that flexible intensive insulin therapy can lead to improvement in glycaemic control. This study, drawing on patients’ perspectives, provides further endorsement for flexible intensive insulin therapy by demonstrating patients’ liking of, and their motivation to sustain, this approach over time. To help patients implement and sustain flexible intensive insulin therapy, follow-up support should encourage them to identify routines to better integrate this regimen into their lives.