How Can I Find an Endocrinologist?
How do you find an endocrinologist when you need an answer to a diabetes problem that other doctors cannot provide? My internist recently sent a referral to yet another endocrinologist and, after a month, there has been no response. When I have tried to find an endocrinologist before, the first thing I am asked is whether I am on Medicare. My reply in the affirmative has always been my last contact with that endocrinologist. What can I do? Barbara Haupt, Boise, Idaho
R. Mack Harrell, MD, FACP, FACE, responds:
WHAT TO KNOW: Our best guess is that there are 5,000 practicing endocrinologists in the United States and more than 25 million people with diabetes. This effectively means that there is one endocrinologist for every 5,000 people with diabetes. As you can imagine, this demand for diabetes services far exceeds what any single endocrinologist can offer, because the average physician can usually handle no more than 500 to 750 people with this disease in his or her practice.
Diabetes care is not easy. The Medicare system requires paperwork up to four times yearly explaining the patient's use of blood glucose supplies, and expensive medications require physician letters of medical necessity whenever they are renewed. Most patients are seen in the office at least four times a year, and many endocrinologists ask their patients to fax in blood glucose numbers every two to four weeks to make sure that glucose control is stable. All of this makes diabetes care extremely time consuming and expensive for a physician and his or her office.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: All that said, you should still be able to find an endocrinologist in the Boise area who can help you. If you are not online yourself, just have an Internet-savvy friend or relative help you go on the Web and visit the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists website. Look for the "Click Here to Find an Endocrinologist" button on the right side of the home page. You can search for an endocrinologist in your area by location, area of interest, or both.
Questions about diabetes? Call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org.