How to Build Your Diabetes Healthcare Team
People with diabetes who receive care from a whole team of health professionals tend to have better control of their condition. They also feel more satisfied with their care and often pay less for medical bills.
As someone who has diabetes, you are in charge of building your team. You want caregivers who have in-depth knowledge of their fields. You also want to make sure you feel comfortable with them, and that they work well with each other. Together, you and your team will focus on your diabetes treatment and overall health.
Start With Your Primary Care Doctor
Your medical team starts with a good primary care doctor. You’ll see this doctor for regular checkups and when you get sick.
Several types of doctors can provide primary care to people with diabetes. Endocrinologists have special training to treat diseases like diabetes. Family practice doctors or internists can also help manage your care.
When choosing a doctor, take time to explore the doctors’ credentials and expertise. Look for a doctor who is board certified in endocrinology, family medicine/family practice, or internal medicine. Endocrinology is a subspecialty of internal medicine.
Ask prospective doctors the following questions:
How much experience do you have treating patients with diabetes? Do you have special training or certifications in this area?
Do you work with other diabetes healthcare professionals?
Do you keep up on the latest diabetes treatment recommendations?
To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to look for a doctor who participates in your insurance plan. A convenient office location and office hours that fit your schedule are also a priority.
When you start seeing a new doctor, it may take some time to get to know each other. Eventually, you should feel comfortable sharing information with your doctor and grow to trust his or her ability to meet your needs.
Seek Out Specialists
Diabetes is a complex condition, and even the best primary care doctors can’t treat it alone. As you work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan, ask about the other types of healthcare providers you could have on your team.
You may consider working with:
A nurse educator or diabetes nurse practitioner, who can teach you how to inject insulin, track your diabetes, and change your health habits
- A registered dietitian to develop a meal plan and help you understand how what you eat affects your health
An ophthalmologist or an optometrist to perform routine eye exams and to promptly detect eye problems associated with diabetes
A podiatrist, who helps care for your feet
A pharmacist to assist you with monitoring and taking your medications
An obstetrician, who can help keep you and your baby healthy if you plan to get pregnant
Some of these specialists may already have affiliations with your primary care doctor. Or, you can ask your insurance company or friends and family for recommendations. A great way to find a specialist is to explore Healthgrades.com, where you can sort providers according to specialty, patient satisfaction, insurance, and location, among other features.
Look Outside the Doctor’s Office
Managing your diabetes can be time-consuming and stressful. Support groups, clergy, or a trusted friend or family member can help lift your spirits when you’re down. If you need more help, ask your primary care doctor for a referral to one of these professionals:
Social workers can connect you with financial or work-related resources.
Clinical psychologists or mental health counselors can help you cope with stress.
Marriage and family therapists work with you and your family members to resolve conflicts and restore supportive relationships.
These professionals also have the expertise to help you with work, family, and financial issues, too. The most important thing is to maintain the upper hand when it comes to managing diabetes in order to stay as healthy as possible.
By building a team of health professionals to help treat your diabetes, you can better control your condition—and possibly save on medical bills.
A primary care doctor is at the heart of your team. Before choosing one, find out about his or her expertise in diabetes care, participation in your insurance plan, office location, and hours.
Other healthcare providers might include a nurse educator or diabetes nurse practitioner, registered dietitian, ophthalmologist (eye care), podiatrist (foot care), pharmacist, or obstetrician (pregnancy care).
Support groups, clergy, social workers, psychologists, and therapists can assist you with work, family, and financial issues.
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