The MetaCare project aims to explore metaphors as effective tools to improve communication and to strengthen the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. The project is funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and aims at providing evidence-based knowledge concerning how metaphors can be fruitfully used in the context of diabetes discourse, through a strong partnership between the Nova Institute of Philosophy and the APDP-Diabetes Portugal.

Metaphors are commonly recognised for their rhetorical and poetical effectiveness. However, their strong imagistic power can also build new connections between different conceptual domains, allowing less familiar concepts and ideas to be explained by more familiar ones.

  • When used by healthcare providers, metaphors aid in communicating complex medical knowledge, procedures, and decisions, making them accessible and more understandable. 
  • When used by patients, metaphors are helpful to communicate symptoms and describe the experience of living with the illness. 
  • Caregivers also benefit from metaphors’ expressiveness when sharing their feelings and concerns of assisting and sharing life with their loved ones. 

Metaphors can thus be also used as an effective therapeutic tool to inform, motivate and engage patients and caregivers, but also as a powerful expressive tool to share symptoms, feelings and concerns with healthcare providers.

The MetaCare project identifies and analyses metaphors used in the context of diabetes to better understand how they can be used more effectively to inform and share information and feelings. Communicating effectively is always important. However, it is even more important in those contexts where communication is considered an integral part of care as it is in the case of chronic conditions and, for the specific purpose of this project, diabetes.The rate of diabetes progression is alarming «425 million people have diabetes in the world and more than 58 million people in the EUR Region; by 2045 this will rise to 66.7 million. There were 1.065.000 cases of diabetes in Portugal in 2017». For more information on diabetes and its statistics, visit the web pages managed by the World Health Organization and APDP-Diabetes Portugal.

The project MetaCare adopts a pragmatic approach for the analysis of metaphors used in the context of diabetes, with a focus on the interaction between healthcare providers and patients with type 2 diabetes. We have two main objectives: collecting and analysing metaphors used in this healthcare context.

By collecting metaphors used in the real world by patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers, we are able to study how diabetes is explained and conceptualised through metaphors within these three different perspectives. If you are a patient, a caregiver, or a healthcare provider, and you would like to share your own view with us, we welcome your perspective! 

We are analysing how metaphors are used between patients and healthcare providers because we want to understand how metaphors can be used more effectively to improve understanding and foster patient self-management. Ensuring an effective use of communication (and metaphors) means metaphors should be used thoughtfully to prevent them from putting at risk patient safety, patient autonomy, and quality of care.

To distinguish between effective and ineffective uses of metaphors, we developed a novel tool to detect evidence of problematic understanding in medical communication. By using this tool, we are now able to systematically identify communicative breakdowns, and we are trying to understand if and when metaphors can be the cause of some of those communication problems. That means we are able to linguistically and discursively track effective uses of metaphors from ineffective ones. In the future, we would like to test different types of metaphors, and we are looking for new collaborators to further develop this project. If you are interested, contact us: we would be very happy to hear your opinions and think about new research studies and projects.