We've reached the end of another month, and for September the monthly Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) Blog Carnival asks what we people with diabetes would like our doctors and medical professionals to know about social media. Great question! Especially in light of the panel discussion on this very topic I'll be participating in, along with several other online advocates, at the upcoming Joslin Diabetes + Innovation conference.
Of course, we've written about this many times before, as have others in the Diabetes Online Community. And this past summer, several DOC leaders came together in real life to talk about this issue with health care professionals during the CWD Friends for Life conference.
Our newest team member, Amanda Cedrone, has some of her own thoughts to share as a twenty-something who grew up seeped in technology:
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I would be lost without the Internet. And my smartphone. Between these two things I'm able to do my banking, confirm that I'll be at a meeting in an hour, and see how many calories I consumed at breakfast -- all within just a few minutes of each other. My phone is the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep. Now, this may be a bit extreme, and there are probably people with much better balance in their lives, but you can't argue with me that technology rules all.
This also holds true when it comes to diabetes management. My blood glucose meter is a USB that attaches to my computer and spews out a graph to show me trends I should be aware of. I have about a half-dozen different apps that do everything from allowing me to record my blood sugar, food intake, and insulin doses, to connect with other diabetic friends about anything that might be on the mind. And though I consider myself pretty tech-savvy, it was only recently that I realized how powerful connecting with the DOC can be. Whether using Facebook and Twitter or blogging, following the conversations around you digitally can help you to realize you aren't alone in your struggle.
It's that whole psychosocial aspect that's been fortunately getting more attention in recent years.
Bottom line: like most twenty-somethings: my life is consumed by technology.
Considering that I'm always looking for new ways to use technology, specifically in ways that make my life easier, I was really excited to write a post for this month's DSMA carnival.
"Assuming online interactions with HCP becomes a 'mainstream' thing, what would you like those conversations to be about?"
You mean being able to chat with my endocrinologist over the Internet and my smart phone like I do with my friends? That sure sounds kind of awesome.
For the first 20 years of my life, I hated all of my endocrinologists. There was a period of a few years when I wasn't even seeing one. That was due to a combination of bad "bedside manner" and their styles of doctoring. I always felt like they were lecturing or judging me. One even told me around age 14 (in roughly 2000) that even if I took good care of myself there'd be a good chance I would still develop complications. When I was in college, another endo even asked what I was doing up at 3 a.m. because there was a blood sugar check at that time... Um, hello -- I was in college!
That's why it's all the more sweet that I love my current endo. I really, really do. She's wonderful, and she's really helped me to take back control of my health over the past few years. That being said, I only see her every three months — at most. And while I'm usually empowered by our appointments, my follow-up is sometimes lacking.
I'll give you an example. About a year ago my doctor and I had a conversation about CGMs. Last week, one whole year later, I finally started on the Dexcom G4 Platinum. It took a little while to wade through the insurance bog, but admittedly the bigger barrier was my reluctance to start on a new device that I didn't fully understand. This is my first CGM, ever.
I had started doing research, would see something that I had concerns about, and then decide to wait until my next appointment to discuss those issues with my doctor. Could I have picked up the phone and called her office? Sure. But I don't use the phone. I text. I email. (Ask my frustrated friends who are always surprised the few times I actually answer calls.) Phone calls just seem like a chore to me. And in this crazy, over-scheduled world we live in, finding the time to pick up the phone didn't seem like a priority.
If I could have messaged her through G-chat about my questions, while shooting off work emails, I probably would have been on the G4 many months ago.
Aside from the CGM conversation, there's also the regular D-management discussion. Sometimes I'll start to see unusually high or low blood sugars and I'll know something in my body or routine has changed. Normally, instead of calling my endo, I'll try to make adjustments myself. Sometimes they work. But if they don't, I just keep trying until my next endo appointment.
If I had a monthly email check-up with her that would allow me to run a few numbers by her, that would be two less months of out-of-control blood sugars.
I typically eat a balanced diet, exercise, and do all I'm "supposed" to do. But there are those times when I choose to eat pizza with my friends at 10 p.m., knowing as I reach for a third slice that I'm going to wake up feeling horrible because my blood sugar is high, and that it will remain unstable throughout the day. This almost never happens in the week or so before I know I have an endo appointment because I don't want her to look at me with a quizzical brow wondering what the heck went wrong that night, and then proceed to justify what I already know was a poor decision. Basically, that appointment keeps me accountable.
If I knew that we would be chatting, or checking in intermittently between my doctor's appointments, it might make me slightly more accountable. Online interaction and social media could be a great way to make that happen.
I'm on my computer and my phone all day for both work and my personal life. They are practically another limb for me. If there was a way that I could access my endocrinologist the way I access my email, I think it would be really helpful in managing my diabetes. Realistically, I don't know how much time my doctor would have for chatting online. That being said, even if I only had five minutes a month with her digitally, having access to my endocrinologist in a manner that doesn't require me to go out of my way at all to ask about the random things that pop into my head between appointments would be wonderful.
What would you talk to your HCP about online? Would you want to have this kind of interaction with your doctors?
This is our September post in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you'd like to participate too, you can get all of the information at the DSMA website.