The decision to self-test brings with it greater convenience, freedom and independence. However, the journey to self-testing can have its obstacles with some patients having to convince their GP they should be offered the option.
This was Mike’s experience. Anticipating a problem-free holiday to America, he thought it would be a good idea to embrace the flexibility offered by self-testing. However, when he visited his local GP he discovered it was not the clinic’s policy to support CoaguChek and as a result his doctor was reluctant to prescribe self-testing strips.
In the end it took some time to resolve the situation and be accepted for self-testing. But don’t be discouraged, as Mike discovered, there are ways of navigating the system and taking ownership of your care.
Ask the right questions
If your GP or healthcare professional is negative towards self-testing it can be difficult to challenge them and know what questions to ask. To help with this, ACSMA (an alliance of anti-coagulation charities) have created this document, which provides advice on the things to discuss with your GP. It will also help to guide the conversation and to show that you are serious about being offered the option to self-test.
In 2014, the NHS regulator NICE released guidance recommending self-testing for people taking warfarin. In the guidance NICE also recommends using the CoaguChek XS self-monitoring device. You can view the guidelines here or email us at email@example.com and we can send you a printed summary that you can also share with your GP.
Request a prescription
GPs are sometimes reluctant to prescribe test strips whether their clinic supports self-testing or not. This means that patients can get involved in a frustrating cycle, where – if they invest in the strips themselves – clinics will not accept the validity of the results and the patient will have to attend phlebotomy anyway. Instead, as Mike found, sometimes the best thing to do is tackle the root of the cause.
Find a supportive clinic
If your clinic is not on board with self-testing, it’s worth finding out if there are alternative clinics nearby that are. Your first option is to contact your Clinical Commissioning Group to ask for their help. There are template letters which you can download to write to your CCG or MP to raise this with the relevant person.
Help is at hand
If that isn’t fruitful, you can try doing your own research by contacting nearby clinics. Alternatively you can contact the CoaguChek Care Line on freephone 0808 100 7666 for more advice. The team may be able to investigate further in your local area. There is also a community of self-testers and people considering self-testing on SelfieChek who might be able to offer advice and share tips from their own experiences.
The thought of changing clinic might sound tiresome and inconvenient, but as Mike found – a longer trip every three months is a lot less hassle than a shorter trip once or twice a week.
When Mike finally started self-testing he immediately felt the positive effects. Not only did he experience all the benefits he had anticipated, he was also delighted to find he was much more stable on warfarin. As Mike explains,
‘The change from phlebotomy to self-testing with CoaguChek has been an all-win experience. The days of regularly travelling to the clinic, waiting for results & dosing and unexplained INR instability are eliminated in favour of a simple and accurate test at home or away with peace of mind.
So although his route to self-testing was longer than most, it highlights the importance of feeling empowered to challenge the healthcare system and ask potentially life-changing questions.
Despite some barriers, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. More and more healthcare professionals are realising that a collaborative approach to your treatment can benefit both patient, doctor and the NHS. We always recommend having your GP’s approval before buying a CoaguChek meter and if your healthcare professional isn’t quite sure yet, there is support available.
If you are facing any of these issues, or still have questions about how to begin your journey, we’d love to help. Please get in touch with us either via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Facebook page SelfieChek.