Living with a chronic health condition frequently means lots of health checks. This could mean regular blood tests, X-rays, scans or other things performed by HCPs. Or, as in the case with diabetes, it means ongoing, regular, daily (and several times daily) BGL checks.
Hopefully health checks are all meaningful. By that, I mean they are done for a specific reason and with particular action taken depending on the result.
I thought about this the other day. I was speaking with someone who had argued with her GP after she had made an appointment for a routine check – a Pap smear. Now, this woman (who is happy for me to share this story) is very connected with her healthcare. She sees her diabetes team regularly and is always up to date with her complications screening. She gets pats on the back from the compliance police.
Her GP knows this because she makes sure that her diabetes team update her GP.
The GP’s role in diabetes is different for everyone. I have a great GP, but he knowns that when it comes to diabetes, his role begins and ends with ‘You still have diabetes, right?’ And then we laugh and tick ‘diabetes’ off the list. Others have their GP as their primary care physician.
My friend has the same sort of relationship with her GP as do I. She is also as vocal as I am when it comes to being very clear about the direction of medical appointments. So when she walked into her appointment, she made it very clear that she was there for a Pap test and that was it.
After she had her Pap test, her GP asked her to step on the scales. ‘Oh,’ said my friend. ‘Why?’
It’s exactly the question I would ask. ‘Why?’ And it is the most useful question when it comes to healthcare. I ask it all the time which is really important when your healthcare professional is more from the school of ‘you will do this‘ rather than ‘this is an idea for us to discuss.’
I am more than happy to be thought of as a petulant toddler in the eyes of my healthcare professionals. I expect things to be explained to me – how else am I meant to make an informed decision about my healthcare?
Too frequently, we are asked to submit to tests (as basic as weight, or something far more complicated) or change our medication or treatment without an explanation as to why this is a good thing.
And frequently we do it without thinking.
Part of being in control of my healthcare is to have full understanding about why we are doing what we do. I check my BGL to give me information to use when it comes to deciding what I will eat or how much insulin I need; I have my blood pressure checked to see if it has changed from the last time I had it checked and if so, if anything needs to be done. I also know it can be a predictor of other things related to diabetes, so it’s something that needs to be checked regularly.
But I refuse to have a check done unless there is a good reason and ‘Oh, just because’ is not a good reason. And that is the reason that my friend’s GP gave her. ‘Do you have some concerns about my weight?’ asked my friend. ‘Do I look different to last time I saw you? I don’t have any concerns, so I’m confused as to why you would suggest it?’
Now, you can absolutely say that my friend was making a big deal over nothing, I disagree. If there is no reason, why have it done? I could go into something about weight being a fraught issue for a lot of people ( I won’t step onto the scales unless I absolutely have to), but actually that doesn’t matter.
There needs to be a reason. If there is no satisfactory and satisfying response to ‘why?’ it doesn’t happen. Simple as that!