For many people, trying to effectively communicate their thoughts, questions and concerns with their doctor or other health care providers within the time constraints of an office visit can be difficult, or even overwhelming.
A diabetes-focused appointment checklist is a simple strategy you can use to prepare for and take an active role in leading your “diabetes-focused checkup appointment,” and can help you to make the most of your appointment time.
Your diabetes-focused appointment checklist should include:
- Making the appointment
- Getting a blood work requisition
- Having the blood work completed in time
- Retrieving and reviewing your own blood work results online (if available)
- Writing down your diabetes-related goals and objectives
- Writing down any questions you may want to ask at your appointment
- Keeping a record of who all the current members of your diabetes care team are
- Setting your next diabetes check up appointment
Making Your Diabetes-Focused Checkup Appointment - Most people with diabetes should see their family doctor/health care team for a “diabetes-focused checkup appointment” once every three months. This coincides with the frequency of a common diabetes blood test (A1C) that helps you and your medical team to see how your overall diabetes management is going, and is also a common frequency for prescription medications to be due for a renewal or a refill.
Clarify the Reason for Your Appointment - When scheduling your diabetes-focused checkup appointment, be clear that the reason you are requesting the appointment is to review and discuss your diabetes.
Blood Work Requisitions - If you had received any blood work requisitions, be sure to have them completed in time for the results to be available to both you and your doctor. Unless instructed otherwise by your health care provider, you should have your blood work completed at least two days before your appointment to ensure enough time has passed for the results to be available to your health care team.
Clarify Which Blood Tests You Need Done - If you were not provided any blood work requisitions at your last appointment, ask which blood tests you should have completed specific to your diabetes at the time you schedule the appointment, and ask to have the requisitions either sent directly to the lab, or made available for you to pick up. Typically, you should expect to have blood work completed that will measure your fasting (before eating) and longer term blood sugar levels (A1C). Your blood work can also include a check of your cholesterol level, and/or your kidney function, but these tests may not be needed at every appointment.
Check Blood Work Results Online - Did you know that many community labs now offer services where you can login and retrieve your own blood work results online? Ask about the availability of this online service in your area, and if available to you, consider printing off a copy of your results and bring them with you to review with your doctor.
Come Prepared with Questions - Take some time to review the results before your appointment, and come prepared with any questions you may have about your results.
Know Your Goals and Objectives - It can be a good idea to write down your diabetes-related goals and objectives for your visit along with any questions you may have in advance of your diabetes-focused checkup appointment. It is just too easy to forget about something important you had intended to ask about or discuss, and a simple list of questions you can refer back to can be very helpful for both you and your health care team. If you are still considering what your personal diabetes goals may be (or maybe you are uncertain what they should be…), consider reviewing the following resource from the Canadian Diabetes Association, which may help: “Targets, Goals and Results”).
Assessments Included In Your Diabetes-focused Checkup Appointment - In addition to discussing your personal diabetes related goals and questions, there are a number of important assessments that you can expect to be included as a part of your diabetes-focused checkup appointment. At the minimum, these assessments should include:
- Checking your feet -Consider removing your shoes and socks once you are seated in the exam room and waiting to be seen!
- Checking your blood pressure - Wear something that will make it easy to expose your upper arm – blood pressure ideally should not be taken over top of clothing, and a rolled up a sleeve may be too tight and affect your results.
- Reviewing your medications - Bring a complete and current list of your medications – all of them, not just those for your diabetes! Or if preferred, bring your actual medications in with you.
- Reviewing any at-home blood sugar monitoring results - If self-monitored blood glucose testing is part of your diabetes management plan, be sure to keep track of your results and bring your blood glucose logbook (or records) in with you to your appointment. Consider increasing the frequency of testing for a few days before your appointment to be able to show a pattern of your results over several days and at different times.
Who Are Your Medical Team Members? - During a diabetes-focused checkup appointment, it is possible that you may see a number of different team members. In today’s complex and changing health care system, you may not always see the same health care providers from one appointment to the next. Consider the reality that over the long haul, the only “100% consistent” member of your health care team is you!
That being said, it is good to keep track of who the current members of your diabetes care team are, and what roles they may play in supporting you with your diabetes. Your diabetes care team may be larger than you think, consisting of many more people than just your family doctor or nurse practitioner. Over time your team may grow to include various medical specialists in the management of diabetes (endocrinologist), your heart (cardiologist), your kidneys (nephrologist), and/or your eyes (ophthalmologist).
Your team may also include a diabetes nurse educator, dietitian, foot care experts (foot care nurse, chiropodist and/or podiatrist), a social worker or other mental health specialist, a naturopath, an exercise specialist (kinesiologist or exercise physiologist), your dentist, pharmacist, and more!
Keep Records of Who You Saw, When, and What Was Discussed - With so many “health care players on the board,” so to speak, it can be very helpful to keep notes of which team members you have seen and when, including a summary of any important information they may have shared with you, and the answers they may have provided to your specific questions.
Set Your Next Diabetes-Focused Checkup Appointment - As your diabetes-focused checkup appointment draws to an end, make sure your initial list of goals, objectives and questions has been addressed. Remember to set your next diabetes-focused checkup appointment before you leave the office, and ask for any blood work requisitions, referrals, or other tests that you should be completing prior to your next visit. (Some tests may not be required at every visit, such as eye exams.)
It is important to remember that you are truly the one in the driver’s seat when it comes to your relationship with your diabetes care team! Make sure that scheduling, attending, and keeping accurate records of your “diabetes-focused checkup appointments” are all part of your ongoing diabetes management plan.
For caregivers, see also our Elizz article on Getting Health and Medical Information Organized.
The following “Elizz reviewed and approved” resources from the Canadian Diabetes Association will help you to keep your diabetes-focused checkups organized:
Me, My Health and My Diabetes Team
Targets, Goals and Results
Know Your Team
My Team’s Notes
What Does Your Team Look Like?