In Providence, there’s a great burger place called Luxe Burger, and they have this menu where you can build your own burger.  Patrons can make use of a sheet of paper that helps you build a burger to your specific preferences.  Do you want the meat cooked medium, or medium well?  Tomatoes or no way?  Would slices of avocado do your burger right, or are you more the onion rings and chipotle aioli?

I love this place.  It gives great hamburger.  And it helps organize my thoughts around a moment that – let’s be honest – is not life or death.  It’s a frigging hamburger.

The things in my life that need to be streamlined into an effective and influential flow, like my endocrinologist appointments, are not as simple as ordering a hamburger.  But they should be.

This concept, about the ease of hamburgers versus the chaos of doctor’s appointments, came up in conversation with a design team I’m working with (part of theT1D Exchange Project – more on that soon).  “We should have the same sort of menu when it comes to making the most of our doctor’s appointments,” I said.  “I usually have to write down my questions before my appointment to remind me what needs to be asked, but even then I don’t always remember everything.  Having something that triggers me to think of potential discussion points would help me make the most of my appointments.”

Then I started picturing what my “menu” would look like.  As a patient at the Joslin Clinic in Boston, I see an educated and established endocrinologist.  She’s very smart, and I want to draw from her intelligence to help make positive changes in my health.  But, aside from labwork results, she can only work with what I disclose.

So what would my menu look like?  How would I build my own endo appointment?

  • My menu would be held on my phone, and would allow me to keep a running list of my medications and doses.  (I always forget the milligrams of medication I’m taking for blood pressure, despite taking the medication faithfully every day.)
  • It would have a list of possible discussion topics that I could tick off as needed, tied to my specific demographic:  exercise, pump therapy, CGM therapy, emotional health, travel questions, female-specific issues, etc.
  • Open fields to keep a running list of patient concerns would be helpful, giving people a place to jot down questions in one place (instead of a napkin note here, a question written on the back of an envelope there … what, just me?)
  • It would have a field for me to enter any blog posts/websites that I want to discuss with my doctor.  (Would also be awesome if I could email links to the menu, kind of like how I forward my travel emails to TripIt, and it automagically populates.)
  • The opportunity to add my labwork results would be great, too.  I wish the Joslin Patient Portal could be siphoned into an app of some kind, but then patient privacy concerns would crop up, and rightfully so.
  • But I keep coming back to the “menu” aspects of things.  Can I order my A1C before my appointment, so the results can be discussed during, and not after?  Can I ask for “the works” and have the rash on my CGM site inspected as well as my feet checked for nerve damage?  Can I ask for a side of dietician, or a follow up with a CDE as “dessert?”
  • And, thinking further out, what would my doctor have on my menu of expectations?  Would she want me to have my logbooks downloaded and ready to go?  Does she want to see my labwork ahead of time, too?  How can I help her help me?

For me, getting to the Joslin Clinic for my appointments is a complicated affair, since the drive to Boston takes a fair amount of time.  But I continue to go there for my diabetes care because I am confident that their expertise plus my dedication to taking care of myself produces the best outcomes.  I do want to make the most of my appointments, though, and being prepared contributes to doing just that.

What helps you become best prepared for your appointments?  If you could create a menu to build-your-own-endo-appointment, what would you include?