The Informed Patient
Here's what one of our readers has to say in this month's Mail Call section: "Over the years, the advances in diabetes management that I use have 90 percent of the time come as a result of me being informed, and bringing this information to my doctor." I want to congratulate this reader on being an active participant in his care.
The flip side, as he also points out, is that people with diabetes often feel as if they're left on their own to find health information. No specific person or party is to blame. We have simply come to a point at which medical knowledge is expanding at an amazingly rapid pace, health care systems are extraordinarily complex, and the most effective ways to address lifelong conditions like diabetes are still being developed. It's like the perfect storm, and keeping the ship afloat can be a daily struggle for people with diabetes, especially those who want to stay informed and advocate for their own care. They are ready for something better, for health care that actively encourages and enables their efforts toward better self-management. Unfortunately, our care systems have not quite caught up to them--yet.
In the past, it was perfectly acceptable for doctors to tell patients exactly what to do for any and every condition. Patients were simply expected to comply with the doctor's orders. While that approach may work for strep throat, conditions like diabetes require a balance of self-management skills and professional guidance. Despite that realization, change has been slow to come in today's complicated health care environment.
The good news is that an increasing number of researchers are working hard to develop new and better methods of care delivery, with the overall goal of putting the patient at the center of the process. Patient-centered care has been shown to improve the health of people with chronic conditions, including diabetes. The results of these efforts will inform the redesign of our care systems.
However, even in a perfect system, a critical component of effective care will be an educated and activated patient. So stay energized, ask questions, and be informed! Talk with a variety of health professionals, request an appointment with a diabetes educator, or engage your pharmacist in a conversation about what's new in the realm of treatment and monitoring. Seek out information from other reliable sources like print- and Web-based patient-oriented publications. In that category, we hope you will continue to depend on the American Diabetes Association and Diabetes Forecast to light your path. We are here for you.