Choosing a Doctor
Without a doubt one of the most important factors for getting quality health care is to have a good doctor. For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, this is doubly important because proper treatment can halt the progress of a disease that can cause severe pain and lifelong disability. Receiving the right treatment and stopping the destruction of RA can be life altering.
As a child it took a long time for my family to find the right doctor. First it was a struggle to get me diagnosed and find a doctor who could recognize that my symptoms signaled a serious disease. Lucky for me, I had a great pediatric rheumatologist. He did what he could with the available treatments and helped us to educate us about how to manage RA for the long term.
As an adult I learned to be discriminating in choosing all my doctors. When I am looking for a new doctor, here are some items that I keep in mind:
- Conduct pre-meeting research—One of the great things about the Internet age is being able to research doctors online. You may start with a list from your health insurer to see who is covered. From there you can research their background and practice. You can also ask around for referrals and references from other patients. Be sure to also confirm location and accessibility (if applicable) to make sure the office is convenient.
- Interview the doctor—Just because you need a new doctor does not mean the first candidate is a good fit. Yes, they are a candidate and must qualify if they want you as a patient! Ask them questions about their knowledge of RA, their approach, their education and experience. How do they handle an emergency like a flare or medication reaction?
- Make sure it is a personality fit—Do you feel comfortable talking with the doctor? Do they listen and answer your questions? Do you feel rushed? Do you feel they are compassionate and caring with patients?
- Ask about office procedures—How does the office handle getting test results to patients? How do they approach emergencies like a flare or infection? How do they handle paperwork needs, such as insurance forms or reports? How will the doctor coordinate care with your other providers?
- Test out the new doctor—If you like the responses on your first visit, try them out for a few visits. Is the doctor responsive to calls? Are they working with you on treatment options and checking back to see how you are doing? Are you receiving test results promptly? Are they answering your questions and concerns? Because it can take time to adjust to a new doctor and differences in their practice, it’s good to give it time.
I’ve become increasingly selective about doctors over the years. I realized my health, time, and money deserve the best care and so I take the interview process seriously.
The best doctors have a combination of experience with RA, compassion for their patients, and ability to coordinate on related conditions. With RA resulting in various health complications, recognizing different problems and referring treatment is crucial for managing overall health.
I also learned recently that it’s vital for doctors and their offices to be able to competently handle paperwork needs. This may sound like a no-brainer, but correctly handling paperwork can seriously support or damage your interactions with health insurance and getting bills paid. One misfiled form can result in weeks of headaches and appeals—a lot more work that we do not have the time and energy to manage.
So don’t be afraid to interview your doctors and make sure you’re selecting the best fit for your health!
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