• A notepad (to write down information) or a tape recorder (As a courtesy, ask permission to record the visit.)
• If possible, a trusted relative or friend to help you ask questions, take notes, and absorb all the information presented during a visit
The National Patient Safety Foundation, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the safety of patients, has developed a number of tips and tools to improve communication between patients and health-care providers during health-care visits. The core recommendation for patients is to ask all of the health-care providers they see the following three questions:
1. What is my main problem?
2. What do I need to do?
3. Why is it important for me to do this?
Follow-up questions such as “This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me one more time?” are also suggested. (To read more tips, visit the Web site www.npsf.org/askme3.)
Asking questions such as these helps to make sure that your voice is heard during your health-care appointments and that you get the information you need. If you don’t understand what your health-care provider is telling you, ask for clarification. Your doctor wants you to be clear on your diabetes treatment plan, so the more you understand, the better it is for both of you!
If you think it would be helpful to you, ask if your provider has any written materials to give you, such as patient information handouts, or can recommend any books or reliable Web sites that can help you understand more about your health condition. Before you leave the office, ask about your provider’s availability to answer questions by phone or e-mail. Make sure you have the phone numbers or e-mail addresses you need and that you understand your provider’s policies regarding these methods of communication.
Diabetes care visits
The three questions listed at left can be a good place to start when you meet with your diabetes care providers. While diabetes may always be your “main problem,” your doctor may have suggestions for focusing on specific parts of your management plan that will have the most impact. For example, if your blood glucose levels are under control but your blood pressure is high, your doctor may ask you to focus on lifestyle changes that can help lower blood pressure the most.
However, because diabetes can have such wide-ranging effects on the body, the following topics will likely be addressed at all or most visits. If your diabetes care provider doesn’t bring up all of these topics regularly, go ahead and ask about them to ensure that they get addressed.
How is my blood glucose control?
You and your doctor should review your overall blood glucose control, based on your recent blood glucose monitoring records. Be sure to bring your logbook with you, and review it before your appointment so you are prepared to discuss your blood glucose numbers and any concerns you have about them. Ask your provider to take a look at your blood glucose monitoring equipment to ensure that you have an up-to-date meter that is in good working order and that you are using the correct strips and other supplies.
Many of the newer meters have compatible computer software that can organize your blood glucose monitoring results into charts or graphs. (In most cases, you will need a cable that you can purchase from your meter company to transfer your numbers from your meter to your home computer.) It can be helpful to upload your meter data at home and bring printouts of your charts and graphs with you to your office visits.
What is my A1C test result, and how does it compare to my previous one?
Your A1C (or HbA1c) test result gives an indication of your overall level of blood glucose control over the past 2–3 months. You should have it checked at least twice a year if you are meeting the treatment goals set out by your doctor, and quarterly if your diabetes treatment has recently changed or you are not meeting your treatment goals. The A1C test requires a blood sample and may be done in your doctor’s office during an appointment or at a lab before your appointment. You and your doctor should review your results together.