Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
Here are five ideas for finding the best endocrinologist for you.
1. Ask around
Just like when you’re looking for a job or tips for a good restaurant, it never hurts to ask everyone you know. You may be surprised how many people in your community have diabetes or know someone who does, and they can steer you to a doctor they recommend.
You can also call up your local ADA (American Diabetes Association) and/or JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) chapter to find out if there’s an endocrinologist who’s an active participant in your local diabetes community. Doctors who come out to support groups, participate in local diabetes educational events, or work with children’s diabetes camps tend to be more educated and engaged and thus more likely to understand the diversity in diabetes treatments.
2. Search online
The Internet offers a plethora of places you can get referrals for doctors and read reviews from other patients wanting to share their opinions about their doctors. In addition, diabetes blogs are great places to identify people who live in your area and who may be able to refer you to a good local doctor (or tell you who to stay away from).
For example, Kathleen Weaver, a pioneering blogger with type 2 diabetes, says she found her endocrinologist by going to the Insulin Pumpers website and looking for reviews.
Here are some sites dedicated to helping you search for a doctor referral:
3. Research what the doctor knows
Ask questions before you make your first appointment to save a lot of time and trouble when looking for a new endocrinologist, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned diabetes veteran.
For example, if you use (or are interested in using) an insulin pump:
- Call the pump manufacturer for a recommendation of local endocrinologists who use their products a lot. This will give you an idea as to which doctors are technology-savvy and progressive in treatment.
- Ask the doctor’s receptionist in advance about what percentage of patients are on insulin pumps—or if the doctor has any allegiances to particular pump or meter companies. If you’re interested in a certain model that this doctor doesn’t use much, you may want to take that under advisement!
If you have type 1 diabetes: Keep in mind that all endocrinologists are trained to manage diabetes, but different practices/MDs will have different levels of patient volume, comfort, and experience with type 1 diabetes. Practices that see a large volume of patients with type 1 diabetes tend to be more comfortable with recent advances, technology (pumps, sensors, etc.), and have more resources available to patients in this area.
4. Look beyond the doctor (you want full-service)
We can’t emphasize enough that the doctor is only one part of the equation. He or she is the more academically-inclined medical expert, while other professionals such as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), nutritionist, or insulin pump trainer can provide a vital lifeline to managing the lifestyle components of diabetes: i.e. exercising, eating out, changing schedules (work, school), travel, etc.
Good doctors know that having input from these educators, dietitians, nurses, etc. provides a more comprehensive approach to supporting you.
Since a good CDE is likely the person you’ll wind up working with most of the time, consider interviewing that person rather than the physician. The quality of the CDE can make or break the quality of care you’ll get. CDEs, like endocrinologists, should be well-educated in a wide variety of treatments and be active in the larger diabetes community.
5. Find a doctor who’s flexible
Diabetes isn’t something that just happens during the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. with an hour for lunch. It happens all the time, everyday, including weekends. Find out what kind of phone call return policy your doctor or their clinic has for weekend emergencies. Who are you going to be talking to? Can you get an email address for submitting your questions, or do you have to go through their automated phone system? How soon can you expect a response?
Some of us function more independently than others and may not need to chat with our doctor so regularly. For others, it can be comforting to know there’s someone there to help bounce ideas off when things get crazy.
In addition, you’ll want to find an endocrinologist who is open to trying new products or theories that you may bring to the table. More and more people these days are saying, “I want a doctor who is not only okay with me doing my own research and determining my own path but who will actually work with me to optimize my self-management.”
Well said—and very important!
How do you feel about your endocrinologist? Would you recommend him or her to your friends or family? Why or why not?