What to Say to Your Doctor

By: Riva Greenberg, author, Huffington Post columnist, speaker and health coach.

Recently the American Diabetes Association added “individualized therapy” to its practice guidelines. No longer are those of us with diabetes to be seen as identical; practitioners are encouraged to create individual treatment plans for, and with, their patients.

We can actually help our provider do that by doing two things. An important step is knowing what to say. In this excerpt from Riva’s book Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s, – an instruction manual for what to do and how to do it to best manage your diabetes,” she shares how to get the most out of our visits with our health care professionals. 

Bring Your Doctor These Questions

You’ll get the most out of your doctor visit if you bring questions and you’re honest and open. As for the latter part, share any concerns you have about aches or pains, family history, bodily changes from the last visit, or physical sensations you’ve noticed. Something diabetes-related may be happening and it will pay to catch it early. If you’re just feeling blue, share that too.

Don’t let fears, worries, embarrassment or guilt stop you from talking frankly with your doctor. She’s not there to judge you, but to help you. If you haven’t been doing a stellar job managing your diabetes—if you slid on doing your blood sugar checks for days or weeks, fell off your eating plan more days than you care to count, forgot to take your meds a few days last week, even if you feel like you are the laziest, most shameful person walking the Earth—don’t lie. (That cartoon with the two meters is just that—a cartoon we can all identify with, but it’s meant to make you laugh, not do!) Trust me, you aren’t the only one your doc’s going to see that day who didn’t turn in a picture-perfect performance.

Dr. David Agus is an international leader for new approaches in personalized health care and professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. He says the knowledge you carry about yourself is more essential to your wellness than your doctor’s knowledge. So hiding your several trips to the bathroom during the night, or the tingling you’ve noticed in your foot since your last visit, can do you harm. Dr. Agus is so emphatic that he also says if you feel you can’t talk to your doctor, find another doctor!

You’ll also get more out of your visit if you ask your doctor questions that will help you understand your condition better and what to do next. A number of recommended questions follow the “How-To’s” below. Don’t feel like you’re being disrespectful by asking your doctor questions. Any good doctor will appreciate that you want to be involved in your care. Also, make sure you understand the answers to your questions.

If you don’t, ask your doctor to explain what they mean. The more you “show up” for your office visit, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself after you leave.

Quick-Starts

  • Bring a friend or loved one with you. They can help be a second set of eyes and ears.
  • Bring paper and pen to write down your doctor’s answers.

Your Choice of More How-To’s

  • Think about anything you’re concerned about before your office visit, write it down, and bring it to your health care provider to discuss. We tend to forget things when we’re nervous or in the short amount of time we have with our doctor.
  • While talking with your doctor, mention what comes to mind even if you think it might be unimportant. This might be just the information your doctor needs to know to help you.
  • If your doctor has prescribed a new medicine, make sure you understand what it’s for, when to take it, how much to take, what to do if you forget to take it, and if there are any side effects.
  • If your doctor gives you any instructions, write them down before you leave his offi ce so you’ll know what to do when you get home.

Questions to help you get the most out of your visit:

  1. “How am I doing?”
  2.  If you’ve recently had any lab work or tests, ask:
    • “What were the results of my lab tests?”
    • “What do they mean?”
    • “What should I do to improve my numbers?”
    • “Can I have a copy of my results?”
  3. “Is it time for me to have an A1C test?” (An A1C test tells you your blood sugar average over the past two to three months. You should have the test two to four times a year.)
  4. “How often should I check my blood sugar?” or, “Can we discuss the blood sugar results I brought?”
  5. “What’s going well so far?” and “What am I doing well?”
  6. If you need help, “Can you help me with my meal and physical activity plans?”
  7. “What should I focus on now?”
  8. “Who else should I see for my diabetes care?”
  9. “Would you please examine my feet and take my blood pressure?”

Riva Greenberg
DPE, Author, Certified Health Coach

Books: Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s; 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life; The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes

Huffington Poscolumnist

Additional Resources:

diaTribe

Patient’s Guide to Individualizing Therapy
http://www.diatribe.org/sites/default/files/diaTribe_43_Guide_to_Individualizing_Therapy.pdf?q=patientguide
Staying at the Center of My Healthcare
http://diatribe.us/issues/52/sum-musings

SixUntilMe

http://sixuntilme.com/blog2/2013/02/a_real_a1c.html
A Real A1C

Diabetes Forecast

Health Report checklist, listing recommended goals for important annual (or more frequently as needed) lab tests and checks
DiabetesForecastHealthReport
How to set up a treatment plan
http://forecast.diabetes.org/plan-apr2012
Stress (and distress) self-care:
http://forecast.diabetes.org/distress-jun2013

WeAreDiabetes

For those who have had a history of an eating disorder:
http://www.wearediabetes.org/forum/thread.php?tid=164

Diabetes Daily (Ginger)

Things I Wish My Doctor Would Ask!
http://www.diabetesdaily.com/voices/2013/06/3-things-i-wish-my-doctor-would-ask/

Moments of Wonderful

Did we cover all your questions?
http://momentsofwonderful.com/2012/05/did-we-cover-all-your-questions/Diabetes Blog Week Day 1 – Dear Doc
http://momentsofwonderful.com/2013/05/diabetes-blog-week-day-1-dear-doc/
 

Bitter~Sweet

http://www.bittersweetdiabetes.com/2013/06/talking-to-docs.html

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