Making the Most of Your Diabetes Doctor Visit

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The average routine doctor visit unfortunately lasts only about 15 minutes these days. Therefore, if you want to get the most out of your appointment, you’ve got to be proactive. By preparing beforehand and actively participating during your visit, you can be successful in achieving and sustaining great control of your diabetes.

What to do before your doctor visit
Start communicating with your doctor several days before your appointment by sending your blood glucose log via fax, e-mail, or regular mail. This provides the opportunity for your doctor to look it over prior to the appointment. Highlight any blood sugars that cause you concern or seem unexplained.

Include a current list of your medicines, taking into account any herbs, vitamins, other supplements, and over-the-counter pain relievers you take, along with the current doses of each drug. Note any medicines that have been discontinued since your last visit.

You may want to call the office the day before to confirm your appointment and to make sure the information you sent over was received. Also, always bring an additional copy of the documents with you to your visit in case the ones you sent were not received or got misplaced.

Write down your questions and concerns before your appointment. Keep your list short — two or three issues are probably all that can be addressed at most visits due to time constraints — and make sure to discuss the most important things first.

Suggested questions to ask at your visit include the following:

• How am I doing?

• May we discuss the blood sugar results I brought?

• What should I focus on prior to my next visit?

• Do I need to see anyone else for my diabetes care?

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?

• May I have a copy of my results?

Review your blood sugar log before your visit, looking specifically for any patterns: What makes your levels go too high, and what causes them to go too low? Does this happen at particular times of the day? What effect does exercise have? Are there certain meals that cause high blood glucose, such as those eaten at restaurants? Because your doctor has limited time to look at the results, it is very important that you set aside time to really study them. You may identify patterns or see problems that can help lead to adjustments in your medications. Highlight these areas and be prepared to point them out.

What to do during your doctor visit
Remove your socks and shoes when you enter the exam room. Even if you intend to keep your clothes on for the exam, you should still remove your footwear. It is the best way to ensure both you and your doctor remember to have your feet examined.

You should feel comfortable sharing any fears or worries you have. Your doctor is there to help you, not to judge you. The knowledge you have about your day-to-day struggles with diabetes is more essential to your wellness than your doctor’s knowledge. If you feel you can’t comfortably talk to your doctor, it may be time to find another provider that you can confide in. Be honest about your eating plan, compliance with taking medicines, exercise habits, and the number of times you monitor during a day. Describe barriers that tend to get in the way of controlling your diabetes.

Discuss any concerns you have about aches or pains, family history, physical changes since the last visit, or new symptoms you have noticed. Catching symptoms of diabetes-related conditions early such as changes in vision or numbness or tingling in your feet is important to ensure response to treatment. If diabetes has you feeling frustrated or depressed, let your doctor know.

Engage in “shared decision-making” with your doctor. This means actively participating in making decisions about your health. The day-to-day management of your diabetes is up to you. Your medication regimen should be diligently evaluated at each visit to ensure target blood glucose levels are being achieved. You must be proactive when it comes to your health care. When treatment changes need to be made, you need to understand the various options and express your preferences regarding the best treatment plan for you. For example, if your medicines are costing more than you can afford or are not covered by insurance, your doctor should find a lower-cost generic drug for you.

Discuss how to obtain help outside of scheduled appointments by asking your doctor at what point you need to contact him. You may need to call if you experience a pattern of low blood glucose levels. Your doctor can advise you on the type of health problems that qualify as an emergency and require a 911 call versus those that merely require a call to the doctor’s office.

What to do between your doctor visits
Here are some steps you should take to ensure you stay healthy between doctor appointments:

• Take your medication as instructed.

• Eat well and stay active.

• Check your feet daily.

• Check and log your blood glucose.

• Keep a record of your office visits and laboratory tests to monitor your overall progress in achieving your diabetes goals.

By following these guidelines, you will feel more in control of your diabetes and create a team approach with your provider. Preparing for your visits and actively engaging during your appointment is essential for developing a collaborative relationship with your physician. Your office visits will be so much more beneficial when you can sit down, ask questions, and learn from each other.

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