What to consider when choosing this partner in your diabetes care.
Just diagnosed with diabetes? Partnering with an endocrinologist, a key player in your ongoing health, is often the next step. Finding a qualified endocrinologist with whom you feel comfortable can make all the difference in managing the day in and day out of diabetes.
Trained in treating diabetes and other diseases of the endocrine system—the body’s system of glands responsible for the regulation of hormones, including insulin—endocrinologists often prescribe insulin or medication, or sometimes both. They also offer nutritional advice and strategies for monitoring blood sugar levels and avoiding complications. As specialists in diabetes—some endocrinologists are even referred to as “diabetologists”—they’re also typically up to date on the latest medications and treatments.
An endocrinologist’s training can take more than 10 years. After finishing 4 years in medical school and 3 or 4 years in an internship and residency program (in internal medicine, for example), doctors who become endocrinologists spend another 2 to 3 years learning how to diagnose and treat hormone conditions. Most become board certified, which requires passing an exam given by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Of course, education, training, location, convenience and insurance are all worth consideration. But to find the right endocrinologist for you, you’ll need to dig beyond pure logistics. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you on your search:
Did I get the right referral?
Ask your primary care physician, trusted friends and family, colleagues and insurance company for referrals instead of just choosing the first endocrinologist who pops up in a Google search. “I’m not a fan of the ‘Best Doctor’ listings,” says Fred Whitehouse, MD, division head emeritus, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who says an endocrinologist should be recommended by colleagues in the community “without hesitation.”
Many organizations, including the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (aace.com), offer comprehensive physician directories to help narrow your search.
Am I asking the right questions?
That first visit with the endocrinologist is when you should spend some time getting to know each other. Take a list of questions with you to ask before or after your exam:
You might ask the endocrinologist:
You might ask the receptionist:
Is the doctor empathetic?
An A+ in bedside manner is more than an added benefit when it comes to managing your diabetes. In fact, compassion leads to better compliance (meaning you’ll be more likely to stick with treatment and lifestyle modifications), improved health outcomes and even lower healthcare costs, according to numerous studies in the Journal of Family Practice, the Archives of Internal Medicine and elsewhere.
What’s my overall first impression?
Even if you’re satisfied with all of the above answers, you still need to check your gut. Is this the right person for you? Were you comfortable sharing your health history? Did you feel heard? Can you be honest with this person about your health? Would you follow his or her advice? “No person with diabetes is like any other person with diabetes,” says Dr. Whitehouse. “The quality of the soup is in the eating, so each person must decide if the mix of patient and physician is appropriate—whether you find the physician satisfying to interact with and recognize the quality of advice.”