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10 Ways to be a Great Partner with Your Doctor

 Patients have the ability to become more active partners in decision-making and understanding options when it comes to managing their health and diabetes. If you are proactive and involved with your health care, you may be more likely to have better control with your diabetes. It may be your doctor’s responsibility to manage your medications and monitor your health, but it is essential for you as their “partner” to work together with them to achieve desired results. 

1. Be prepared. Between doctor visits, keep a list of any questions you have, changes with medications, medical procedures done, recent hospitalizations, changes in medical conditions or other topics for discussion. Bring a copy of your labs done outside your health care system, in case your doctor does not have access to these. If you had an Hgba1c done between the visits, know the value in advance, so you can discuss with your provider what may have contributed to the increase or decrease in value.

2. Keep a checklist. Update your calendar with monthly and annual reminders of specialists appointments. For example, if you are overdue for your annual eye exam, dental exam or podiatrist appointment schedule them or provide your doctor the date of your most recent visit.

3. Stay up to date on your diabetes education. Keep in mind there are new recommendations, treatment options and devices that are constantly changing in the diabetes world. Maintain your diabetes knowledge by attending a diabetes education course, meeting with your certified diabetes educator, or by reading magazines or websites of reputable organizations.  As you learn, then teach others. 

4.  Healthy eating. Remember when it comes to improving your blood sugars and improving your health, diet can often be more effective than medications. Continue to apply healthy food choices, portion control, carbohydrate counting, and reading food labels. When meeting with your provider, bring a food log of what you are eating and drinking, when, and the amount to provide a more accurate diet history of what you are consuming on a regular basis. This can be documented in a journal or you can utilize a phone app to help keep track which increase both awareness and accountability. 

5. Check your blood sugars regularly.  Make sure to bring your blood sugar meter or logbook to your visit. If your provider does not know what your blood sugars are, it is difficult to make necessary medication adjustments. There are also various phone applications that can help you log your blood sugar levels. If you notice your blood sugars are out of range, look for patterns and trends that you can discuss with your doctor.  

6. Exercise. We have all heard of the benefits of physical activity and exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. It has numerous positive benefits and can help with weight loss, lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, stress, and reduce the risk of diabetes related complications. Be sure to also discuss with your provider if there are any physical limitations you should be aware of. 

7. Utilize technology. With evolving technology, it is making it easier for patients to have access to their labs and health information. If you can contact your provider through the patient portal or through email, it can also help open communication between visit. 

8. Honesty is the best policy. Many people are not always honest with their provider on how/what they are eating, use of medications or lifestyle choices such as drinking and smoking.  It is imperative that you are being truthful with your provider, considering these are all factors that impact your health.

9. Set goals. Often providers tell patients what they should work on between visits, but patients may have different goals or ideas of what they are ready to work on. These should be a collective effort to ensure you are both on the same page, and should include: specific, measurable, and realistic goals. Examples of goals: lose 5 pounds, check blood sugar levels 2 times per day, eliminate soda, or get blood work done.

10. Know your medications. Keep a list of what medications you are taking, the dosage, how they work and what are potential side effects. Especially if you are on insulin, it is important to discuss with your doctor how to adjust insulin between visits, if high or low blood sugars occur, or when to call the office if blood sugars are out of range.