Working With Doctors

Sometimes doctors can be your best diabetes friends. Others seem to be part of the problem. How do you find a good doctor and work well with him? What does a person new to diabetes need to know about working with doctors?


It seems some doctors are better about sharing information, while others just like to give orders. Some are better at listening. Some seem more rushed. How do we help them help us?

One thing I know is this: It’s important to prepare well for an appointment. On a blog entry I wrote back in 2008, reader delebra commented,

The day before I go to the doctor, I fill out a form I have devised on my computer. First is a list of the medications I take, with dosages and what they are for. On the back of that I print a list of my allergies and intolerances to medications, foods, and chemical/environmental sensitivities.

The next page is my medical history, broken down by diseases/conditions, injuries, [and] surgeries/procedures. Within each category things are listed with the date, with the latest first.

The last page is current problems, where I describe what’s going on that the doctor needs to know about. This is where I ask my questions.

Good work, delebra! Though I would also include log forms of glucose levels and anything else you keep track of.

Notice delebra doesn’t assume the doctor knows anything at all about her. Doctors have thousands of patients. They can’t remember details about any of us, including our medicines. And they’re not mind readers — if we have a problem we must tell them; if we have a question we must ask. Otherwise we leave the appointment thinking, “Damn. We didn’t talk about the most important thing.”

I always make a written list of the most important points I want to talk about with the doctor. It’s good to have your two or three most important questions written out. That way you won’t forget to ask. If the doctor is unable to answer, or doesn’t have time, you can leave the list with him for a reply by phone or e-mail later.

Our Web site has a lot of other tips for successful appointments here and here.

But what about finding a good doctor in the first place? What’s the most important thing to look for?

Some other questions: Some doctors seems like they listen more to drug company marketers than they listen to patients. Do doctors ever seem like pill (or injection) pushers to you, and how do you deal with that?

I especially wonder about dietary advice. Is that an important part of what a doctor should do for you, or do you get that in other places?

How important is it that your doctor be open-minded? If you want to try a new diet approach or herbs or vinegar or something else you’ve learned about, how important is your doctor’s approval?

How often should you plan to see your doctor? Web Editor Diane Fennell reported on a study showing that people with more frequent appointments gain better control of their diabetes. The study authors thought the benefit of frequent visits was that changes could be made more rapidly. Does that make sense to you?

Finally, do we need to see doctors at all? Several people have commented, as Ferne did on Diane’s blog entry above, that they prefer their nurse practitioner to their doctor. (Actually, I do too. I haven’t seen my general practitioner in three years.) Is that an option for people with diabetes, especially newly diagnosed people? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

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  • Joe

    If your provider offers an online communication portal like MyChart, it can make working with the doctors and staff much easier. I get test results, ask questions, get appointment reminders, and keep a diary of my care on the site. A few days before my last visit, I emailed my primary with a “laundry list” of concerns, and he was able to review my history, think about care options, and plan for our visit. Nothing was forgotten, and best of all we were both able to correspond at our convenience, eliminating one of the biggest barriers to communicating with caregivers: bad timing. If your clinic offers a similar service, I highly recommend it. As someone with multiple medical issues and providers, it makes keeping everything organized much easier.

  • James Barton

    I enjoyed the article, but in my case I have never found better care for diabetes II than my family physician and a very young dietician who proved she could get me off all medication if I would only listen to her.

    I am now in my 10th year since diagnosis. I can see now I had had it for many years before diagnosis. My family physician states that I am far different than the average diabetic in that I will change lifestyle as needed to control the disease. I simply tell him my goal is to die with my feet on! I have lost over 70 lbs since diagnosis, keep my bmi under 18, and aim for 15-20 hours of exercise per week.

    This year I spent months attempting to find better care or more comprehensive care than my family physician. Each year I have been unable to completely stop or reverse the diabetic deterioration but had maintained aic’s below 7 using only diet and exercise until this year.

    I had multiple recommendations for “the best endocrinologist in my area”. I was looking forward to a new view of my case and hoped for more knowledgeable recommendations for a better diet/lifestyle without just pushing the drug of the day.

    I prepared well for the appointment, spent 30 minutes with the doctors interns, and then heard I just needed to take some pills. Upon hearing this my family physician laughed a little as his care was far better than the acknowledged specialist in the disease.

    What I have learned in my diabetic years is that it is up to the patient to take charge of their own treatment. Lucky ones may stumble into good care but this is hard to find.

    It’s a pity that healthcare is such a closed community and one just cannot ask a health provider or insurance company for a Doctor that provides total care for the patient.

    It is also comical in that my insurance company absolutely requires and annual eye exam for diabetics but will not pay for it.

    I do feel sorry for newly diagnosed diabetics. They rarely are told about the severity of the disease, the effect on their lifestyles, and read stuff like they can treat the disease and it is a big deal. That is also what most people think that do not have the disease.

    Has anyone seen a diabetic section in a grocery store. Have any of you tried to find products with no sugar added?

  • Grass

    Hi, i went through your post. yes you are right s we there are no product without sugar. but we have to avoid it ourselves. we have to take care ourselves to make our life healthy.

  • grass

    also, i would say avoiding anything is not a task for one day it definitely takes time to come up. Our daily routine is depended on these things but again this is really on us how to manage our lifestyle without these things.

  • JohnC

    James B.. Sadly you are right on the money with your observations. Better be prepared to extend your education to better help yourself.
    You can spend a lot of time watching your health get worse — you really do have to learn how to keep YOU as close to normal as possible.

    Guess the tip off years ago when I stared my education process and quickly discovered that even the medical professional couldn’t agree on much. Changing doctors isn’t always an option. Perhaps the saddest part is even when you accomplish great results,you are not asked how you did it. When you stop crying life goes on…with you much better off.