Intended for healthcare professionals


Self monitoring of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes: longitudinal qualitative study of patients' perspectives

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 06 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:493
  1. Elizabeth Peel, lecturer in psychology1,
  2. Margaret Douglas, consultant in public health medicine2,
  3. Julia Lawton, senior research fellow3
  1. 1Psychology, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET
  2. 2Lothian NHS Board, Deaconess House, 148 Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9RS
  3. 3Research Unit in Health, Behaviour and Change, Clinical Sciences and Community Health, Medical School, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9AG
  1. Correspondence to: E Peel e.a.peel{at}


    Objective To explore views of patients with type 2 diabetes about self monitoring of blood glucose over time.

    Design Longitudinal, qualitative study.

    Setting Primary and secondary care settings across Lothian, Scotland.

    Participants 18 patients with type 2 diabetes.

    Main outcome measures Results from repeat in-depth interviews with patients over four years after clinical diagnosis.

    Results Analysis revealed three main themes—the role of health professionals, interpreting readings and managing high values, and the ongoing role of blood glucose self monitoring. Self monitoring decreased over time, and health professionals' behaviour seemed crucial in this: participants interpreted doctors' focus on levels of haemoglobin A1c, and lack of perceived interest in meter readings, as indicating that self monitoring was not worth continuing. Some participants saw readings as a proxy measure of good and bad behaviour—with women especially, chastising themselves when readings were high. Some participants continued to find readings difficult to interpret, with uncertainty about how to respond to high readings. Reassurance and habit were key reasons for continuing. There was little indication that participants were using self monitoring to effect and maintain behaviour change.

    Conclusions Clinical uncertainty about the efficacy and role of blood glucose self monitoring in patients with type 2 diabetes is mirrored in patients' own accounts. Patients tended not to act on their self monitoring results, in part because of a lack of education about the appropriate response to readings. Health professionals should be explicit about whether and when such patients should self monitor and how they should interpret and act upon the results, especially high readings.


    • We thank Margaret MacPhee for her administrative and secretarial support, the healthcare professionals who assisted with recruitment, and the people with diabetes who took part in the study. Thanks also go to the reviewers Ann-Louise Kinmonth and Ulf Lindbland.

    • Contributors: JL, EP, and MD designed the study. EP collected the data. EP and JL analysed the data. EP drafted the paper. JL, MD, and EP were involved in the critical revisions of the paper, and approved the final version. EP is the guarantor.

    • Funding: This study was funded by the Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Executive Health Department. The researchers' work was independent of the funding body.

    • Competing interests: None declared.

    • Ethical approval: This study was approved by Lothian Research Ethics Committee.

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