This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.
By Eritrea Mussa
Getting your questions answered in your limited time with your healthcare provider can be frustrating. Here are some strategies you can use to ensure you’re getting the best care possible.
As a person who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 20 years, I have seen a lot. From the time I was diagnosed in 2002 while on Medicaid, to the years I spent without any insurance, to now having excellent insurance through my job here at The diaTribe Foundation as the social media manager, many of my experiences with healthcare providers have been the same across the board, regardless of my insurance coverage.
Although many of us living with diabetes have the privilege of seeing an endocrinologist three to four times a year, those appointments can seem impersonal and routine; sometimes they can even feel rushed. I have at times felt myself being pushed out of the office before I’ve had the opportunity to discuss all my concerns.
For this article, I interviewed friends and doctors for practical advice to offer people with diabetes about how to ask for new treatments. During these conversations, I made a surprising discovery. All my friends with diabetes, providers and patients alike, regardless of their financial situation, were running into the same issue during their appointments: lack of time.
Appointments were often rushed, and it seemed like the only issues discussed were time in range or current diabetes problems. Solutions seldom included options for new treatments, other than an occasional change of insulin. Everyone I spoke with said similar things about the lack of time allotted for office visits regardless of insurance status.
Because new treatments seem to be trending on social media and advertised at a dizzying pace, it can be difficult for people with diabetes to keep up with what device or drug does what and for whom. How do we make sure that we are receiving the best care and the most up-to-date information from providers during a 15- to 20-minute appointment while also fitting in a conversation about time in range and addressing any recent struggles with diabetes management?
As I continued my research, it occurred to me that regardless of the obstacles we face, we have to advocate for ourselves and ask—maybe demand—the things we need to best manage our diabetes. So that begs the question: How do you talk to your doctor about trying new medications?
- Stay informed. While we hope to receive information from our doctors, we can do our part to stay informed. My number one piece of advice is to join diaTribe (and subscribe to the newsletter) or another diabetes organization to keep you informed about the newest treatments. Research is ongoing and new therapies are constantly being approved for use; it is our responsibility to stay up to date.
- Ask for what you need. It’s okay to ask your doctor to slow down during your appointments. Although their schedule may be packed and they are moving quickly, it’s important to remember that you matter for those 15 minutes. It’s alright to say, “Hey, can we slow down and talk about what is available to help me?” If you have a particular problem you need help solving, this is the moment to address that with your doctor.
- Don’t be shy. Many people, including those living with diabetes, tend to allow the physician to run the conversation during appointments because that’s what feels right. We trust our doctors to keep us healthy and informed. But remember, no one knows what you need better than you, and as we say in Texas, closed mouths don’t get fed. Your doctors can’t help you unless you let them know what’s important to you. So speak up, don’t be shy. Let them know what you need and how you’d like them to help you.
Ultimately, it is up to us to make sure we get what we need for successful diabetes management. While these conversations can be difficult and uncomfortable, it helps to know that this is a situation that many of us living with diabetes are navigating.
It’s my hope that we can all feel empowered to ask for what we need from our providers, even if we only see them for a rushed 15-20 minutes every three to four months.