A one size fits all concept may work for a pair of gloves at the Dollar Tree, but it doesn't work so well for health care providers. I'm certain you've been there. Everything seems picture perfect - the office is a few miles away, the provider takes your insurance, they have humans that answer the phone, and they can make you a timely appointment. What more could you ask for, you wonder.

What does your list entail? 

A happy list usually contains the following 

  • a short wait (People magazine, circa 2016, isn't very entertaining) 
  • tech-savvy office staff that understand diabetes gadgets - and our diabetes lingo 
  • an A1c machine 
  • a certified diabetes educator, on hand 
  • a non-judgy environment about diabetes results 
  • good listeners 
  • providers that don't have a foot out the door from the moment they enter the room 
  • personalized treatment options 
  • ease of getting prescriptions 

Jot down a list of your own priorities. You may, or may not, be aware of what they are.

Having lived 34 years with type 1 diabetes (T1D), as well as 11 years of parenting to a child who lives with T1D, I've formed some solid opinions about our healthcare marketplace. There are wonderful providers out there, but we also need to play our part in learning how to use their system most effectively. This can eliminate half of the I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall to get a prescription kind of struggle. You may have multiple provider choices. On the contrary, you may only have a single, local, in-network option for an endocrinologist. Otherwise, management entails a multi-hour drive to see another provider. You may choose the latter if you aren't 'feeling the love' with your local provider. That's what choices are all about, but be certain that you're making an informed one.

Remember, picking a provider to stick with is akin to having a long-term relationship of sorts. Communication is always key. Long-term relationships have their perks. Having the same provider over a length of time forms a unique bond. My daughter has had the same endocrinologist since age 5. That's an incredible 11-year provider/ patient relationship! Is it always perfect? No, but what relationship is? We work through things together. Getting to the bottom of your provider's process is important and knowing how to make things flow more smoothly is partially our responsibility. Give some thought to any potential questions you may have before your appointment, write them down, and bring them along to reference. 

Here's a short to list of questions to get you started  

  • Do you have a patient portal? 
  • Do you have a list of important phone numbers? 
  • Who should I communicate with if I'm having non-emergent needs? Do they have an email? 
  • Who is my contact person about new technology, blood sugar guidance, or prescriptions? 
  • If I'm having an emergent need, who do I call during business hours? Who do I call after-hours? 
  • Is the lab you're sending me to in-network for my insurance plan? 
  • Who can help me with insurance issues/ denials? 
  • Do you keep emergency supplies on hand in case I run out of something? 
  • Do you look at my diabetes data between appointments? If so, where do I send my results? 
  • Who will let me know about my lab results? Can I request that they are sent in the mail? 

What questions have been the most insightful or helpful that you've asked your provider and their office staff? 

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