Optimal migraine management is the work of a cohesive health care team. The composition of our health care teams will vary, but we all need that team working in harmony to achieve our best migraine disease management. That means it's up to us to put together the best possible team to meet our needs, and there's no better time to address that than now. A great health care team is like a jigsaw puzzle with each piece fitting perfectly and tightly with the others.
Each person's health care team needs to be customized to suit their needs, so the number of members on the team, as well as their roles can vary. Let's take a look at who we may need on our team:
- Ourselves. Not only must we be members of our own health care teams, we need to be the team leader. We, after all, are the person with the most at stake.
- Primary care physician/family doctor. In an ideal world, we'd all have a primary care physician who sees to our general health needs, helps us find any specialists we may need, receives reports back from those specialists, and helps us coordinate our health care. This isn't, however, an ideal world, and finding doctors willing to fill that role isn't easy. In fact, some of us have run into issues finding new primary care physicians because some won't take on new patients with multiple health issues.
- Migraine specialist. Not everyone needs to see a migraine and headache specialist. Those who are fortunate enough to have a family doctor, neurologist, or another doctor who understands migraine disease well enough to offer good treatment may never need a specialist. On the other hand, many of us have seen multiple doctors with little success and found that working with a migraine specialist was a vital step on our journeys to better migraine management.
- Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Counselor. Some migraine and headache clinics have mental health professionals on their staff, and all new patients have an appointment with them during their first visit. There are two main reasons for this:
Migraine and major depressive disorder are often comorbid to each other. Patients are screened for depression so they can receive treatment if needed.
Patients are also assessed for having adequate coping skills for living with migraine disease. This ensures that they receive help with developing better coping skills if needed.
Nurse Practitioner. Some offices and clinics have nurse practitioners who are trained to handle some of our follow-up visits and treatments.
Physician's Assistant. Some offices and clinics have physician's assistants who are trained to handle some of our follow-up visits and treatments.
Nutritionist. People who have multiple migraine food triggers may find consulting a nutritionist to be helpful.
Pharmacist. Our pharmacists can be very helpful, especially if more than one doctor is prescribing medications for us. Our pharmacists can advise us on several issues, including drug interactions and potential side effects.
You may find that there are additional health care professionals whom you need on your health care team. They word "team" is key here. It's important that everyone act in concert as a team dedicated to our health. It's also important that the various members of the team communicate with each other, and we're well within "normal" bound to ask members to consult with each other to coordinate our care. Honestly, some health care professionals aren't always good at this, and it can be difficult at times to get them to send notes or reports to each other. If you have this kind of situation come up with a team member you feel is valuable to you, remember that we have rights to our records under HIPAA. We can always request a copy of our medical records, then share them with other members of our health care team.
Now is as good a time as any to review our health care team to ensure that we have the team members we need and that each of them is working with and for us effectively. There are times when we can like a member of our team even though they aren't as effective on our team as they should be. This is a time to set personal feelings aside and seriously consider replacing such team members. Our goal isn't to be liked. Our goal is for our health and quality of life to be as good as possible.