We’ve all been there: hunting for a new provider, unhappy with the one we currently have, or perhaps a new insurance plan isn’t accepted, demanding a switch. Change can be difficult as we try to familiarize ourselves with a new provider, office staff, and avenues of communication. This change can be especially hard when living with a chronic disease.

Patients no longer want to be told what to do, rather “they want to be partners in their health.” Let’s face it, diabetes is a self-managed disease with infrequent check-ins; good providers are those capable of viewing the doctor/patient relationship in this light.

It’s a Relationship

The wish list runs long and patients understandably have individualized preferences when it comes to connecting with a provider. There’s a mixed bag of talents out there and finding a suitable match means taking inventory of what’s important to you.

A peeve of mine is when providers chart on the computer during my appointment because I don’t feel like they’re listening to me. On the flip side, I like someone that’s tech savvy and available for questions via email. A positive personality is the most important part of my wish list, but of course you have to pick and choose the attributes that are most important to you. You most likely won’t be able to find absolutely everything you want in a provider.

As a nurse, I often note the critical issue of keeping humanness alive in medicine as technology takes over the bedside. According to USA Today, we may point to technology and pharmaceuticals “as the life support” in healthcare, “but it is, in fact, the relationships nurses and other caregivers forge that are one of the most powerful therapeutic tools in healthcare.”

The Emotional Impact of Diabetes

Effective providers are not only sensitive to the physical stressors that diabetes places on patients, but also the emotional ones.

To no surprise, a recent DAWN study found that the psychological impacts of diabetes are substantial. According to Diabetes Care Journals, the study found that providers may lack the confidence “in their ability to identify psychological problems in their patients or to provide the psychological support their patients need.”

The DAWN study also found that patients are adherent to treatment plans when they’re easily understood and when they work. Diabetics are also compliant when they understand the risks versus benefits, and when success seems attainable with the support surrounding them.

At the very heart of this is the patient-doctor relationship. Research shows “that patients who are satisfied with their relationship with their healthcare providers have better adherence to diabetes regimens,” which equates to better outcomes.

What are we looking for in a healthcare provider?

Empathy – A sense of caring and understanding goes a long way in medicine.
Good bedside manner – How a provider interacts at the bedside occupies a first-place status according to medicalschools.com.
Connectedness – Providers that are connected to their patients via phone, email, social media and other organic ways such as eye contact, the human touch and a listening ear are valued for their traits.
Problem solving skills – Thinking outside of the box and connecting the dots doesn’t come easily to everyone; the ability to recognize the interconnectedness of health issues makes for a prized provider.
Time management skills – Even if they don’t have extra time on their hands, some providers are able to settle in, listen and make a difference in the little time they do have. Nothing is worse than having an appointment with a provider that has an obvious foot out the door the entire time.
Technological competence – The technological face of medicine is changing and some offices are starting to catch up with secure web portals.

Diabetes is a self-managed disease demanding autonomy. However, there needs to be collaborative care between you and your provider where they offer advice and help you understand and set goals to help you manage your diabetes.

When looking for a provider, don’t settle for less than you deserve; your health depends upon it.

To learn more about your healthcare team:

Find the Perfect Diabetes Doctor for You
What To Do When Your Diabetes Doctor is Unkind or Rude
Prevent Bad Medical Care: Create a "Patient Toolkit"