Hello again and welcome back to another edition of Powerful Living Diabetes,
When is the last time you had to research a doctor? Like most people, you may have an insurance plan issued by your employer. Every year, you may have to re-enroll in the insurance plan. Sometimes the insurance plans change completely. When this happens you may end up having to change to a new insurance plan. Or you may need to find a new healthcare provider.
Either way this can be challenging. But change is inevitable. It’s how you embrace change that makes the difference. However, for a person living with diabetes, it is important to establish care with the best healthcare provider. It is also important to have regular scheduled follow ups. This is necessary to have your diabetes monitored.
There are different types of healthcare providers in today’s marketplace. Of course I am bias in recommending that anyone living with type 2 diabetes should see a physician on a regular basis.
Your primary care physician may employ a mid-level provider. An example would be a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. Politely insist on being seen by your primary care physician at least on alternate visits to the office. You gain the personal touch and connection of developing a relationship with your doctor.
Also your physician is responsible for overseeing your care. Even if (s)he uses mid-level providers such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
The following are ‘bare necessity tips’ to ensure that you are entrusting your greatest asset- YOUR HEALTH- to the best healthcare provider.
Tip number one– Make sure that your doctor carries an unrestricted medical license to practice in the state. This sounds like commonsense. But it’s not. Also check with the state licensing board. Find out whether there have been any bad reports made against the physician.
Tip number two- Find out whether the physician has current malpractice insurance coverage. In some states malpractice premiums are very high. Some physicians may decide not carry malpractice insurance. However, they need to let you know this. It’s probably not the greatest idea to establish care with such a physician. It’s just like driving without insurance. Malpractice insurance is simply the ‘cost of doing business’. So make sure that your physician is committed enough to his business by carrying malpractice insurance. You can check to see whether there have been any malpractice claims made against the physician. This does not have to prevent you from deciding to establish care with that physician. But at least you will know.
Tip number three- Find out if your physician is board certified. Board certification is an important yardstick. It is important that a physician keeps up with the current medical trends. Board certification is a standard test that determines that. Before the 1990s, board certification was done only once. It was valid for the entire professional career of a physician. There has been rapid changes in the medical landscape. The American board of medical specialties decided to require re-certification every 8-10 years. A lot of patients do not know this. But this information is public knowledge.
Tips number four- Ensure that the physicians’ office hours are in line with your schedule. This is very important. Especially if you have a job that is not very flexible. Do you need to be at work 8-5 PM? Is your physicians’ office also open from 8-5 PM? This is not a good match. Are office hours an important factor in your decision-making? Ask the receptionist what the hours are before deciding to schedule an appointment. Look for an office that has evening or weekend appointments. As a diabetic you cannot afford to skip seeing your physician because you can’t get in to see them for any reason. This is an important part of avoiding long-term complications.
Tip number five- Know how long it typically takes for your doctor to return your calls.I can’t tell you how often I hear this complaint as one of the reasons that patients get upset and leave a medical practice. May I suggest that on your initial visit with your new doctor, you both establish ‘the ground rules’? That way both parties know what to expect- no surprises. For instance your doctor may have a policy that if it is not urgent; it takes up to 24 hours before they get back to you. Or they might have their nurse get back to you to get more information before they answer your question. At other times your physician may need to see you back in the office. For example, if your sugars have been running high for some time- this requires an office visit. But it is important to know this ahead of time.
Tip number six- Know how results of tests will be communicated to you ahead of time. Does your physician send out information about test results by a letter or phone call? Or do they expect you to schedule a return visit? Knowing this ahead of time cuts down on any misunderstanding. The adage ‘no news is good news’ does not apply to your healthcare. Always expect some form of communication regarding any tests that were performed on you.
Tip number seven–Some Resources to look for a physician:
- Seek out recommendations from friends and family. It’s an added benefit if they have been longtime patients of the physician.
- Call your insurance company for a list of physicians that they contract with. Most times the insurance company has already done a lot of the search. And can answer all your questions about a particular physician.
- Check with the state licensing board.
- Call your local hospital to see whether they have a physician referral service.
Just like a good pair of shoes, you may have to go spend some time in your search to find the right fit for you. The important thing is to be persistent in your search. And never be afraid to leave a healthcare provider if you feel that your needs are not being met. Be proactive for health. That’s what powerful living is all about.