If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you may wondering how to go about choosing the best healthcare provider to help you treat and manage your condition for the long term. Even though you may feel overwhelmed, consider this a key opportunity for you to take a step back and make the decision about who the right person is to partner with for your care. If you already have a good primary care doctor who communicates well, takes time to listen to your thoughts and concerns, and seems up to have adequate knowledge/experience in treating many patients with diabetes care, the decision may be easy to stay with them. However, if your current doctor-patient relationship is not something you are comfortable with, it may be time for you to shop around for someone new. Here are a few things to consider:
- Is your healthcare provider well versed in diabetes care? Do they see patients with diabetes on a regular basis? Are they current on the latest clinical studies, new products, and treatment guidelines?
- Are they a good listener? Do they give you enough time to ask questions and voice concerns, as well as allow you to ask follow-up questions?
- What is their availability like? Do you feel that you your doctor is easy enough to get in touch with? How do they handle daytime and after- hours phone calls from patients? Do they get back to you in a timely manner? Are you able to get in for appointments within a reasonable timeframe?
- Do they truly treat the whole person, or just the disease? What is their treatment philosophy and does it reflect a good understanding of the social and emotional impact diabetes? Do they go beyond prescribing medication and actually look into your lifestyle to make sure your treatment plan is working?
- How is their bedside manner? Are they warm and welcoming and empathetic to what you are going through? Do you feel comfortable enough to ask questions and express concerns? How do they treat their staff?
When to Choose a Specialist
Again, if your primary care provider has a decent amount of diabetes care experience and you are happy with them, you may be able to stay with them to help manage your diabetes. However there are some cases where seeing a diabetes specialist, called an endocrinologist may be more appropriate for you. Some of these situations include:
- Your primary care lacks experience or feels you would be better served by an endocrinologist so they want to refer you to this type of specialist
- You are having difficulties managing your diabetes and need more specialized care
- The treatments you are currently receiving are not working well enough
- You require an insulin pump or multiple daily injections
- There is a need to be connected with a larger specialized care team including a certified diabetes educator, dietitian, pharmacist
Making the most of your visits: communication is important
Maintaining good communication with your healthcare provider is the key to successful office or telehealth visits. Some examples of optimal communication include:
- talking WITH each other rather than AT each other
- active listening on both sides
- your healthcare provider being able to explain aspects of your care in nontechnical language that you are able to understand
- being honest and respectful with each other
Preparing for your visits in advance
In addition to having excellent communication, preparing for your visits ahead of time can really help. Taking a couple of minutes to do just a few simple things can make the difference. Below are some tips:
- Make a list of issues and questions you want to discuss and bring them to your visit.
- Fill out any required office paperwork in advance, if available.
- Bring your medications (in their original bottles) or at least a list of them, to the visits. Remember to include herbs and supplements too since they may interact with other medications or may be inappropriate for diabetes.
- Consider taking someone else along with you to your appointment for support and as an additional set of ears to hear treatment decisions and recommendations.
- Don’t be late or a “no-show” for appointments. Make sure you put appointments on your calendar and include reminders. Leave plenty of time to get to your appointment to avoid arriving rushed and flustered.
Taking the time to choose the right healthcare provider, maintaining strong communication and preparing ahead of time can really make the difference in your journey to manage diabetes.