IBD and Autoimmune Illness

Gathering Your Medical Team

Get ready to gather your medical team!

Finding the right doctors can be tough. And when you move and are forced to leave doctors you love, it is even harder. Maybe you are newly diagnosed and have NO IDEA where to start when it comes to doctors. Or maybe you just aren’t happy with your current team. Either way, making sure you have the right people on your side is important! Do they listen to what you are saying? Are they helping you down the path that is right for you, not for just any random person? If they aren’t working for you, do yourself a favor and gather a new team! Read on to see what I considered when forming my new team of doctors and why it is important to get your team on the same page as you!

I’ve been in California for a little over 2 weeks now.  Since being here, I’ve already been to 4 doctors appointments in the search for my new team! So far, so good. Though it’s taken lots of research to determine who would be the right fit for me and my health goals. My team was pretty solid back in Massachusetts. It was a bummer to part ways with them, but that doesn’t mean my progress and goals with my IBD and health just come to a halt. I turned to my trusty Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Angie Alt and Mickey Trescott (Click here to get a copy!) for tips and insight on what to look for in your team. I highly suggest reading chapter 2 in its entirety if you’re looking for change.

What I really like about the Handbook is that they provide checklists to either evaluate your current team, or what to ask and look for when compiling your new team. In addition to these lists, I made sure to sit down and list what I was looking for in doctors, what my goals are for my IBD and overall health, and research the area in regards to medical groups, doctors, and lots of review reading! Talking to people in the doctor’s office or friends with the same conditions or needs as you is a great way to get recommendations on different providers. When searching for doctors on the internet you can get reviews from current patients, information about when they got their degrees, where they did their residency, papers they have published (my favorite!), and so on. This is a helpful tool to see if they are current in their fields and how their patients feel about them. You can also see how available they are to their patients, and how difficult it may be to get into their office.

Before continuing on, I want to make a point. I highly suggest reevaluating your team if you are not happy with your current situation. It may seem awkward to leave a doctor, but guess what? They still have other patients and are getting paid. If they are not meshing with you and are not on the same page as you, IT IS NOT WORTH IT TO STAY WITH THEM! You are literally paying for a service you are not satisfied with. Now, if you are in the middle of a flare and are mad they don’t want to take you off meds, not a reason to be mad at them! But, if they don’t have the same long term goals as you for your health and aren’t staying recent in the IBD field with all the research happening, MOVE ON. The only person it will be hurting to stay is yourself. So follow this guide to get a new doctor 🙂 . 

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, the most important thing to do is determine your immediate needs in regards to doctors, the insurance you have and what these medical providers take, the medications you need, and what doctors are more of a support role that can be built into the team later on. For me with my Crohn’s, the most important members of my team are a gastroenterologist, a primary care physician, dermatologist and lady doctor. Those are the ones I do the most research on and who I visit the most with all my “issues”. After doing all the research on the area which I listed earlier, I had my 4 appointments scheduled. This is where the fun begins! Think of your appointments as an interview or tryout, that is what works for me and ensures that I ask the right questions in order to determine if they are right for me, abreast in their fields, and willing to work with my goals, within reason!

I made sure to ask my gastroenterologist these questions during my first visit. I’ll only leave these here to keep this post shorter. But you can get the gist of how to tweak this list for other types of providers. With my GI doctor being the most important in my eyes, I put the majority of the heat on them, in a good way!

  1. How long have you been treating people with my condition?
  2. What are your feelings on the current research in the field and available medications?
  3. If I were to start my care with you from when my illness was first diagnosed, what steps would you have taken to get me into remission?
  4. How do you feel about biologics and patients potentially moving on from them? (I liked how my new doctor answered this question the most!)
  5. With my diet and lifestyle, are there any things I should be on alert for or monitoring more closely?
  6. With my current state, what are your ideas of where I should go with my treatment?

If you’ve never done this type of thing before, it can be kind of intimidating to be drilling your doctors with questions. But if they are a good provider, they will be open and honest. Some actually like that you put effort into your care. It is also important to consider what questions they ask you. While describing your IBD journey were they truly listening, maybe even stopping you along the way to get more details? Did they ask about any other symptoms you may be having to potentially link other conditions? It’s not uncommon to have other autoimmune illnesses if you are blessed with one. 🙂 Did they ask for your previous medical records and schedule some tests of their own to get an idea of where you are at? When gathering your medical team, you need to think about these things. 

My new GI doctor passed the test. And he actually provided me with a lot of insight into the future with IBD, his feelings on the medications available and what he wanted to see for my future with Crohn’s. All of this being super important and what I was looking for in a new GI doctor. Now for other areas like primary care, dermatology, you name it, I tweaked the above questions and was able to assemble a great team for me. They are even looking into other underlying issues that could be going on for me which is great. 

Don’t let gathering a team of doctors intimidate you. It takes a little effort on your part, but it’s invaluable. If you get a good team behind you, you will be able to get your health and IBD journey on the right track. And, if you need to part ways with a doctor, don’t feel awkward. Do what is best for you and your health!

Stay healthy warriors!

Kelsey

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