Today I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about patients managing their doctors. The piece was specifically referring to people living with more than one chronic health condition, which, in the case of diabetes, is frequently the case. But even in those of us ‘lucky’ (?) to only have to deal with diabetes, there is still often a requirement of coordinating other healthcare professionals and services into the bundle of diabetes care and making sure that everyone is always on the same page.

I consider my engagement with my healthcare team to be a partnership. We work together for the same outcomes – me being healthy. And happy.  We work as a team.

But I do consider it my job to be the Chairperson and CEO of Renza’s Diabetes Pty. Ltd. It’s my life and my diabetes and I am best placed to decide what goes on the agendas at the meetings. I wrote the vision and mission statements. And designed the logo.Renza's diabetes logo

I know that there are still some healthcare professionals out there who think it is their job to be in the driver’s seat. But I like to think that with changes in education and training of medical students (and ongoing training of existing HCPs), that the ‘God complex’ exhibited by many in the past is diminishing. (Perhaps this is wishful thinking and I just manage to work with HCPs who don’t do this?)

Living with diabetes requires a lot of management. I’m not talking diabetes self-management here, I’m talking about the organisation required to keep things ticking along – regular appointments, making sure the supply cupboard is not bare, complications screening dates, pathology appointments, plus all the other regular checks advised of those with a functioning pancreas – the list seems, at times, to be never ending. I have often thought that I would like a PA to manage my diabetes life. It would be a full time job! Plus, they could get me coffee.

So if we are doing all that management – as well as the self-management which gives us a picture of exactly how our diabetes is going – then who else should be responsible for shaping the direction of our engagement with health professional team?

I adore that when I walk in to see my endo, after the lovely catch up chatter, her question is always ‘How can I help you today?’ There is no jumping in asking me about numbers; she doesn’t tell me what she thinks I want to know; she doesn’t tell me what she things I should know. She asks what my agenda is, and then waits.

And then off we go – sometimes on odd tangents – but at the end of the appointment, I always feel that I have gone in and been able to address what I wanted to. I am sure that in her mind, there are things she would like us to have covered, and she often gently asks about those, but if they are not on my radar she most respectfully packs them away for when they are.

Does this mean I am ‘managing my doctor’? I don’t think so. It means that I am asking for help with what I need and she is able to do that. It means that we work together. And it means that I am getting what I need. There is nothing at all wrong with that.

A few years ago, Diabetes Victoria developed handy checklists for people with diabetes to act as a reminder for health checks. You can access the type 1 diabetes checklist here and the type 2 diabetes checklist here. In lieu of a PA, these are mighty useful. Although they won’t make you coffee.

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