Ask a DCES: How Can I Feel More Comfortable at the Doctor’s Office?
Do you ever wish you could ask a diabetes care and education specialist (DCES) anything about type 2 diabetes?
In our new monthly Ask a DCES column, you can get your most burning questions answered from a DCES professional on various topics, including diet, medication, exercise and mental health.
Want to submit a question to us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dear DCES: I feel a little intimidated by my healthcare provider and don’t always say what’s on my mind. Do you have any advice on how to feel more comfortable to ask questions about diabetes?
This is a great question! You manage your diabetes 99 percent of the time and only see your provider a few times a year for short visits, so it’s important for you to get the most out of your appointments.
You are Not Alone
In a survey of people with diabetes, 30 percent reported reluctance to discuss their self-care with their providers for fear of being judged, not wanting to disappoint their providers, guilt and shame. If you are experiencing any of these negative feelings that result in a lack of effective communication with your provider, you may want to seek out a mental health provider to work through your feelings and assess whether you may be experiencing depression or diabetes distress.
Make Sure It’s a Good Match
Your relationship with your provider must be founded on mutual trust to be successful. If you aren’t getting what you need from the relationship, it’s time to “divorce” that provider and get a new one. Oftentimes, the office staff know a lot about different provider personalities within the practice and can recommend the best match for you. You can also check to see if your health insurer offers an online matching tool to help you find a provider that appeals to you.
Getting the Biggest “Bang for Your Buck” Out of Your Provider Visits
Your provider has a lot of demands on their time, so it can be helpful to take the long view and think of your relationship with your provider like you would with anyone you plan to interact with for months or years. Here are five steps that may help:
Prepare. It’s a good idea to spend time before your provider visit to think about and write down your questions and concerns. That way you can have an effective and efficient visit. It’s easy to forget topics in the moment, so having a list is helpful. The more information you can provide about what is going on, the easier it will be for the provider to collaborate with you on the best next steps. Here are some diabetes-related tips to remember:
- Bring your meter or logbook or if using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), download it at home if possible and bring the report with you. If you need the office to download it for you, allow extra time and arrive early.
- Let them know if you have had low blood sugar episodes and how often they occur.
- Bring a list of prescription medications and all supplements you are taking. Do an inventory check to see if you need refills on any prescriptions soon, including CGM sensors or test strips, pen needles, etc.
- Write down new symptoms you have noticed or changes you have made since the last visit.
Share. Of the many things you are expected to do to take care of your diabetes, what are you able to do and what do you find challenging? Ask for help with those things. And be honest if you’re not sure what they recommend is actually doable for you.
If your provider offers an online portal for communication, getting it set up will allow you to expand your collaboration and communication and you will likely feel better served. If you get home from a visit and remember something you forgot to mention or need clarification, you can send a message to the provider through the portal and you’ll likely get a relatively quick answer. Many offices with portals will also release lab results through the portal. If they don’t offer a portal, they often have a selection on their phone tree to speak to someone like the provider’s nurse or another person on their team.
Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider if they think that all of your efforts are making a difference in your health. In a global study looking at the impact of physician-patient communication, people with diabetes experienced greater well-being and self-care when their provider used collaborative and encouraging conversation elements.
Collaborate. Treat the medical office as if it were a new neighbor you are meeting for the first time. Address the staff by name, tell them something about yourself, use humor, give them a heartfelt compliment. Your relationship with your provider works best for both parties through two-way collaboration. You want the provider to care about you and learn about you as a person, but you can also show interest in them.
Manage expectations. A provider may not be able to meet all of your needs, but they can recommend other resources and refer you to those who can. Diabetes is a complex disease and support for managing it comes in a variety of forms. Be an advocate for your health and ask your provider what other options there are to support your self-care. Diabetes education offered by a diabetes care and education specialist can be an effective tool as well as online or in-person peer support communities.
Bring a family member or a friend. You may feel more comfortable bringing a family member or a friend to an appointment. Your companion advocates on your behalf by taking notes reminds you of questions to ask, and if you’re not bilingual, it may be helpful to bring someone who can help you communicate with your doctor. If you decide to bring a trusted friend or family member, you may want to decide which topics you’d like to discuss alone with your provider prior to your companion joining.
A Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Can Help
You deserve to have the best care possible. A diabetes care and education specialist can be an excellent resource for finding the right provider to help you manage your diabetes as well as support you in your own self-management. They offer ongoing support, guiding you in what conversations to have with your provider as well as creating a management plan that works for your lifestyle, culture and needs. The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists has an online tool you can use to find a diabetes care and education specialist today.