How to Prepare for a Diabetes Checkup
Some homework will help you get the most from your doctor visit
Today’s routine diabetes checkups can feel rushed. “A typical diabetes doctor schedules about 15 minutes for each appointment,” says Anuj Bhargava, MD, MBA, CDE, FACP, FACE, an endocrinologist at the Iowa Diabetes and Endocrinology Center in Des Moines. “Most of that time is spent charting and getting information from the patient, so the only time really dedicated to the patient’s treatment is somewhere in the five- to 10-minute range.”
To make diabetes checkups more efficient—and to get the most for your health care dollar—prepare for the visit before you set foot in the waiting room. Here are a few things you can do before your next appointment to make every minute of your visit count.
Keep a List of Prescriptions
Patients with diabetes often take more than one medication, and their most current regimen is important for health care providers to know. Without a complete list of medications, “an update that could have taken a minute or two ends up taking five, 10, or even 15 minutes, and that really affects the appointment,” Bhargava says. “The time that could have been spent improving your care is now being used, instead, in trying to update your meds.”
List It! Bhargava recommends bringing to your appointment a complete list of all medications you currently take. Include the name of each medication, the dosage, and how many times and when you take it each day. Remember to note all over-the-counter medications and vitamins and other supplements, too. Use a smartphone app, a written list, or a printout from your pharmacy to keep track.
MedCoach (Android and Apple apps), free
MedSimple (Android and Apple apps, online), free
My Medicine Tracker, mediguard.org, free
Bring Blood Sugars
Blood glucose readings from your meter show how the body responds to medications, food, and exercise. But when people show up to their appointments without their most recent blood sugar log, the doctor has to guess about adjusting or improving treatment. “If you’re trying to get your TV fixed, would you go to the repair shop without your TV?” Bhargava asks. “It’s the same concept with your blood sugars. It will be difficult for the doctor to help you if he or she can’t see the problems.”
Track It! There are a variety of ways you can track your blood glucose readings as you take them each day. In addition to a traditional pen-and-paper log, check out websites, apps, and the data management software included with many meters.
Blood Sugar Trackers
MyNetDiary Diabetes Tracker (Apple), $9.99
Prep Your Questions
You’ve been waiting to ask your doctor a burning question, only to have it slip your mind as soon as you enter the exam room. “I’ve had patients who will go to their appointment and then step out of the office, only to remember a question they had to ask that just wasn’t coming to them,” Bhargava says. “Sometimes they have to call the office back, and some wait three more months—until their next appointment—to ask.”
And then there’s the question that pops out just as the doctor starts to exit the exam room. This may catch the doctor off guard. “Try to avoid the ‘doorknob’ questions,” Bhargava says. “It won’t be as effective when you say, ‘Uh, doctor, one more question … ’ when the doctor’s body is in the room, but his mind has already moved on to the next patient.”
Ask It! People may feel intimidated or a little nervous about speaking up during the appointment. Bhargava recommends writing down a list of questions and concerns before you visit the doctor. This helps you stay organized and confident and puts the focus on your concerns.
Doctor Appointment Organizer (Android), $3
Medicalog (Android), free
Bhargava likes to point out that you are in charge of your well-being for at least 131,400 minutes between doctor’s visits (and that’s if you have diabetes checkups every three months). “While sports figures practice and practice for the big game, people with diabetes are constantly playing the game, but they only have time to ‘train’ at their doctor appointments,” Bhargava says.
“Your doctor and other people are trying to help you, but they are outside the boundary,” he says. “You are the one playing the game, so it’s important that you take charge of your diabetes.” Prepping for your appointment is one way to celebrate more health victories.
Note: Anuj Bhargava, MD, MBA, CDE, FACP, FACE, is chief executive officer and founder of the diabetes management site mydiabeteshome.com.
Health Management Tools
Each day, it seems as if a new personal health management or electronic health record website launches. Most offer basic service at no charge, although you may have to view online advertising. For security purposes, be careful how much personal or identifiable information you provide when signing up for an account. Some sites allow mobile access to your account through your smartphone or tablet. Just a few examples:
Diabetes 24/7 (diabetes.org/247) This online diabetes management system from the American Diabetes Association integrates with Microsoft’s HealthVault. You can import data from HealthVault-enabled devices, such as meters and pedometers, and from your health care providers. Transmit and share information online or print reports.
Microsoft’s HealthVault (healthvault.com) Some clinics and providers can send your lab results directly to your account, and you can also enter information yourself. Use HealthVault’s apps (Android, Apple, and Windows) to access your data from anywhere.
My Diabetes Home (mydiabeteshome.com) This website allows you to track blood glucose readings and prescription information, along with your questions and goals. You can print a report for your next diabetes checkup. The MedSimple meds management app (Android, Apple) communicates with your online account.