You’re Not Their Patient - They’re Your Healthcare Team
Advocating for your health can be intimidating, awkward, even challenging at times. It can feel as though you’re questioning your medical provider, or “testing” your relationship or bond. But, remember, the healthcare system is a service industry; a business. And, while it may feel odd to place your medical care under the microscope, it’s incredibly critical to receiving timely, appropriate healthcare.
3 steps on how to self-advocate when living with type 2 diabetes
Here are 3 steps to start the process of advocating for your health:
Step 1: Reframe your mindset
The medical providers and specialists you see are part of YOUR healthcare team. You’ve hired them for a service. You pay your insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays and it gets sifted over to them after treatment. It’s perfectly okay to analyze your care the way you would a paint job on your home.
Was the service you received timely? Comprehensive? Satisfactory? Appropriate? Was the communication clear? Do you understand where your health stands? If so, you’ve got a great team by your side. If not, talking to your provider about your concerns may help. Ultimately, if that doesn’t work, you can start the search for a new provider.
Step 2: Do your research
Not every provider, specialist, clinic, or hospital is made equal. Do your homework on your options. A good place to start is by getting the in-network provider list from your health insurance company. Then start looking at hospital clinics and rankings, talk to friends and families, read reviews online, ask medical professionals you know, etc. about your top picks. It’s now, more than ever, easy to research your medical services and providers.
And here’s a little insider’s tip: It’s often encouraged to keep specialist referrals within the same healthcare system (by specialist I mean doctors who specialize in a type of care, for example: cardiology. I’m also referring to other medical professionals like therapists, diabetes nurses, dietitians, etc). If a specialist outside of the medical system seems like a better fit for you, ask for a referral to that specialist. Just remember to check your insurance coverage to make sure that the provider is an in-network provider.
Step 3: Keep current on changes in the diabetes landscape
Did you know the average time for research to start becoming a routine part of your medical care is 17 years?1 Yes, 17 years!! The diabetes landscape is rapidly changing with new medications and technologies coming out almost yearly over the past 5-10 years. Knowing what’s out there can help you advocate for things that may help improve your diabetes health and decrease your daily burden. Something as simple as checking out Type2Diabetes.com, picking up a diabetes magazine, or listening to a podcast can keep you in the loop.
It's also important to take advantage of your diabetes-self management training (DSMT) insurance benefits. This adds an additional layer of support, as diabetes care and education specialists work hard to keep up-to-date on the latest advances in diabetes care. They have the skills to help you fit the right tools, lifestyle changes, or medications to your needs. Too often I see people pushed to a new device, or special diet, or etc., that didn’t give them the results they expected or needed. It wasn’t the right fit.
While these steps just skim the surface of advocating for yourself (we haven’t even touched on the all-important piece of asking questions), the bottom line is you are paying YOUR medical team to guide and support your health. That’s a big distinction from being your medical team’s patient.
How have you advocated for yourself? Or, how do you plan to?
Do you like to eat grilled cheese sandwiches?