Most of us have been there at one time or another- face to face with a medical professional who we think might actually be bad for our health. But what if that person is our regular diabetes provider?
How can healthcare hurt?
As a Certified Diabetes Educator at One Drop, I have the extraordinary privilege of getting a unique, daily, and very personal journeys of people with diabetes. As you might expect, these journeys regularly include encounters with healthcare team members. While so many of these visits were positive and productive, there have been some heartbreaking and even nerve-wracking accounts of healthcare gone wrong. They range from inaccurate and unsafe clinical advice and assumptions, to poor “bedside manner” — providers who don't listen, respect, partner, or personalize. Whether small or large, these medical missteps negatively affect the diabetes management of those at the center, the individuals who live day to day with this disease.
Unfortunately, options can be limited. The number of healthcare professionals who specialize in diabetes management is significantly smaller than the number of people who live with diabetes. This is especially true in rural areas and for certain specialty areas like pediatrics. As a result, countless people with diabetes feel stuck in a dead-end relationship with a problematic healthcare team.
However, there are things you can do.
Tips for getting the most out of your healthcare team:
Assess your relationship. Does your provider listen to what you have to say? Do they provide adequate information, resources, and options? Can you contact your provider with questions or concerns in between visits? How do you feel when you leave your provider's office?
Get up to date. Knowledge is power! Learning as much as you can about managing your condition gives you a leg up both in and out of the doctor's office. Enroll in Experts | On Track or ask your One Drop Expert for information and resources about diabetes management.
Advocate. Ask for what you need to be successful. Unsure of what a particular lab result means? Ask for clarification. Want to sit down with a Certified Diabetes Educator for an in-depth review? Ask for a referral. You are the expert in your own life, so advocate for the things you need to live healthily. Make sure you have someone else to advocate for you in case you are unable as well.
Prep for your visit. Office visits can be short and quick, but spending some time preparing for a visit can help you get the most out of it. Start by familiarizing yourself with your most recent data and blood sugar trends before you go in using One Drop reports and in-app analysis. Make a list of things you want to ask or discuss to bring to your visit so you can leave with answers to all of your questions. You may want to prioritize your list too, in case you're running short on time. Bring something to take notes with, especially if you don't receive any kind of “summary” print out from your provider's office.
Touch base. No one should have to wait around 3 months with high or low blood sugars until the next doctor's appointment- it's not healthy or safe. Make sure your diabetes team is available to answer questions and make dose adjustments in between visits. Ask for contact information, including a phone number, email address, and/or fax number- and you may have to persist. While in your visit, ask your doctor some “What If” questions, especially if you have trouble getting in touch between visits. For example, “What if my blood sugars are still above 200 a week or two from now- should I increase my dose again by the same amount?” Your doctor may give you a Plan A, but if possible, get a Plan B too!
Consider a switch. If there is no improvement despite your best efforts, it may be time for a change. There are several ways to find a different provider- sometimes there are other providers within the same clinic, or at a satellite clinic. There may be a different practice in town too, or maybe even several. Call or check out your insurance company's website for a list of available in network options. Ask local diabetes support groups for suggestions. Consider other types of providers if necessary, including Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants.
Connect with others. When it comes to diabetes, there is power in numbers. Lean on the diabetes community for general information, peer support, tips, and reviews.
And when your medical team does do a great job, be sure to let them know and say thanks!
Remember: healthcare should help, not hurt. If you feel like you're in an unhealthy relationship with your healthcare team, take action!