For someone living with type 2 diabetes or any other chronic illness, it is important to establish care with a knowledgeable healthcare provider. It is also important to have regular scheduled follow ups so that you can have your diabetes monitored.

There are different kinds of primary healthcare providers in today’s marketplace. There are what are called ‘mid level providers’. These would include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Mid level providers typically work under the supervision of a physician.

You may need to be seen only by a physician depending on how complex your medical needs are. For example if you already have some complications associated with type 2 diabetes.  If you do end up seeing midlevel providers, a physician should see you on some office visits.

The following tips are what I would call ‘bare necessity tips’ to ensure that you are trusting your greatest asset- YOUR HEALTH- to the right provider.

Tip number one- Make sure that your doctor carries an unrestricted medical license to practice in the state. This sounds like commonsense. You can also check with the state licensing board to find out whether there have been any bad reports made against a physician.

Tip number two- Find out if your physician board certified. Board certification is an important yardstick. It is important that a physician keeps up with the current medical trends. Board certification is a standard test that determines that. Before the 1990s, board certification was done only once. It was valid for the entire professional career of a physician. But with the rapid changes of the medical landscape, currently the American Board of Medical Specialties requires re-certification every 8-10 years. Whether your doctor is board certified or not is public information. To check on the board status of your physician, click here.

Tip number three- Find out whether your physician has current malpractice insurance coverage. In some states malpractice premiums are very high, and some physicians may decide not carry malpractice insurance. However your physician should let you know this. It is a good idea to first have a conversation with a physician who has decided not carry malpractice insurance to find out why they made that choice. It’s just like driving a car without insurance. Medical malpractice insurance is the ‘cost of doing business’. You can also check to see whether there have been any malpractice claims made against the physician. If you find your physician does have a malpractice claim, have a conversation with them. This does not have to prevent you from deciding to establish care with that physician but at least you know.

Tips number four- Ensure that the physicians’ office hours are in line with your schedule. This is very important especially if you have a job that is not very flexible when it comes to taking time off during regular work hours. If you need to be at work 8 AM-5 PM and your physicians office is also open from 8-5 PM that is not a good match. If a physician’s office hours are an important factor in your decision-making, when you call, first ask the receptionist what the hours are before deciding to schedule a visit. Perhaps a doctor’s office with evening or weekend appointments may work better for you. As a person living with diabetes, you cannot afford to skip seeing your physician because you are having a difficult time keeping appointments. Having ease of access to your primary care provider will help to identify problems as they arise early. This is an important part of avoiding long-term complications.

Tip number four- Know how long it typically takes for your doctor to return your calls. I can’t tell you how often I hear this complaint as one of the reasons that patients get upset and leave a doctor. On your initial visit with your new doctor, take the time to establish reasonable expectations. For instance your doctor may have a policy that if it is not urgent; it takes up to 24 hours before they get back to you. Or they might have their nurse get back to you with and get more information before they answer your question. At other times your physician may need to see you back in their office. For example, if your sugars have been running high for some time- this may require a repeat office visit.  But it is important to know this ahead of time.

Tip number five- Know how results of tests will be communicated to you ahead of time. Does your physician send out information about test results by a letter, phone call or do they expect you to schedule a return visit? Knowing this ahead of time cuts down on any misunderstanding. Also please realize that the adage ‘no news is good news’ does not apply to your healthcare. Always expect some form of communication regarding any tests that were performed on you.

This is just a place to start, but I trust that these five tips will help you in choosing a healthcare provider.

Some Resources to look for a physician:

  • Seek out recommendations from friends and family. It’s an added benefit if they have been longtime patients of the physician.
  • Call your insurance company for a list of physicians that they contract with. Most times the insurance company has already done a lot of the screening that I listed and can answer all your questions about a particular physician.
  • Check with the state licensing board.
  • Call your local hospital to see whether they have a physician referral service.

Just like a good pair of shoes, you may have to go spend some time in your search to find the right fit for you. The important thing is to be persistent in your search. And never be afraid to leave a healthcare provider if you feel that your needs are not being met. Be proactive for health. This is what powerful living is all about.

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To your health and wellbeing,