Networking: we all do it to enhance our careers or our business. We might network to find romance or – if moving to a new city – to find new friends. For our children, we network to find the best schools or clubs. We utilize friends and colleagues, our communities, neighborhood associations, church/temple congregations, and even alumni associations to find critical information which helps us determine what to do or where to go for the very best… whatever that might be.
But do we use the same skill to prioritize diabetes professional care? The Internet has changed how we gather information. Most of us are comfortable enough to form an opinion about new test strips, pumps, creams for dry skin and so on when we read about product benefits and risks, but getting a doctor referral is different. Furthermore, new medicines and innovative technologies are meaningless without a capable doctor. It’s a necessary link.
How does networking help us find a good doctor or make a change when we aren’t happy with our current care?
Diabetes Specialized Care: What is Good Anyway?
Patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes need specialized care, and because such a great deal of diabetes care is reliant on self-management – it’s important to find a doctor with whom you have a good rapport.
What makes a doctor not a good fit?
-Closed communication style/poor listening skills
-Not networked professionally
-Not willing to try new approaches or not updated on latest medical advances
-Little time and poor resources, ie, poorly trained or non-existent health care team (educators, nutritionists, etc.)
When I moved to back to Manhattan in 1995, my insurance company gave me the name of an endocrinologist, but it wasn’t a good fit. I was frustrated and began looking for a better alternative. I asked everyone I knew, and finally struck gold at a morning coffee break with colleagues. One of my co-workers had a friend who raved about her doctor and she agreed to share her friend’s number with me. I called her friend (Fran) and we met for lunch. Fran and I spent two hours together sharing stories about diabetes as children (and as adults) and she told me her doctor had made a HUGE difference in the quality of her life. I called her doctor that afternoon. It has been roughly fifteen years since that lunch, and that doctor is still my doctor today.
By prioritizing my need for better medical care AND utilizing all local ‘avenues’ for information, I found that number 1 doctor. It was due to my networking and persistence (months of asking passed before the coffee break) that I achieved my goal and I was lucky enough to find that special person – the needle in the haystack – the Golden Contact. Networking doesn’t pay off immediately and even getting a name, doesn’t mean it will be a perfect fit. Sometimes it takes a few wrongs to find that Dr. Right – just as it does when we are looking for our Mister Right (or Miss Right).
Networking for a Doctor
Here are some tips for finding the best:
- Your community: if you are in need ask everyone you know especially anyone with diabetes connections. Make calls, send emails – be persistent. Word of mouth is the best recommendation. I have found that insurance company lists/other commercial lists are not great. Great doctors do not advertise! They don’t need to and often don’t want more patients to care for… as they are in so much demand from patients, their peers (other doctors) etc.
-Doctor publicity – in the news: if you find a journal article or a story in the news about a doctor or researcher and you are impressed – don’t be shy. Try and make contact with that person. They may not be able to care for you (and they may not live in your area) but they may know someone who can.
-Doctor Networking: do you have a great GP, cardiologist, ophthalmologist, etc. but feel less confident about your endocrinologist? If so, the doctor you rave about may be the best person to ask. Good doctors always work with good doctors.
- If a patient recommends their doctor, try to assess how their care is going? Are they happy with their progress and care? Are they healthy? If yes, proceed. (In other words, a doctor might be nice – but not particularly skilled!)
Social Networking on the Internet
Given the current internet environment, how are social networks changing (if at all) our ability to find health care practitioners (as opposed to health care products or remedies) who are reliable and competent? Is a virtual friend with a photo enough to influence us into calling a doctor they might know? Are internet social networking sites reducing our capacity to make the right connections in our local communities?
Social networking and sharing information via the internet has a huge impact on the way we make decisions. Lately, I have been writing about my frozen shoulder conundrum: all the feedback I received on that particular post made me step back and really consider my options. I made an appointment with another orthopedic surgeon yesterday recommended to me by three separate friends/acquaintances (word of mouth!) The new doctor (the current doctor came to me through a physio referral) and I discussed my nervousness about surgery and other options available to me. He was kind, caring, direct and practical. The feedback I received helped me re-assess what I was after (a quick fix for a painful problem), and I realized that the surgery wasn’t going to give me the result I wanted.
I am less convinced that digital social networks can offer us the same level of information for professional care contacts. A few weeks ago I received an anonymous email from a patient who needs an endocrinologist in Manhattan. I live in Hong Kong and so, I am probably not the best resource. I sent a few emails this morning but it takes time to make enquiries for someone I do not know! I believe our local community contacts, friends and acquaintances are still the best sources of information for doctor recommendations. We may exchange the information on the internet – but I am not so sure THE source originates from a digital contact. I still believe we need to get out of the house and actually meet face-to-face for the really important matters in our lives – such as finding the right doctor.