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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (7)
  • SweetAngel
    2 years ago

    Cont…
    Sorry. I had 2 good RA Doctors & they left the office where i was seeing them. I won’t travel too far for a doctor. I do live in the Lakewood/ Longbeach Calif.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi SweetAngel, sorry to hear about your doctor troubles. Finding a good rheumatologist can be very challenging. It may help to get a list of doctors within a certain distance from where you live from your health insurer. Working from a list of doctors that you can reach and use your insurance will help guide your search. I also like to ‘interview’ my doctors to see if I like their approach to treatment and working with patients. You may find this article about questions to ask a rheumatologist useful: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/questions-for-the-doctor/. Hope these ideas help.

    Best,
    Kelly

  • SweetAngel
    2 years ago

    The doctors i get that my insurance will cover they seem like they just don’t give a rats ass on your pain or just don’t know much about the disease. What do i do ?

  • Jane Burbach
    4 years ago

    Kelly,

    Thank you for the reminder to make an appointment with the original rheumatologist that my GP referred. At first diagnosis, the original rheumatologist was booked for three months and I needed treatment immediately due to being unable to work – or even move practically! I did a web search and contacted all rheumatologists in my area to see who could get me in first.

    I found a new assistant professor at a state university’s medical school and she had an opening the following week. She has treated me fairly well, but she doesn’t seem to take me very seriously and she does not prescribe pain meds. The methotrexate shots and plaquenil have helped, but would another med or meds be better?

    I will call the original doctor tomorrow and see how it goes.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Good luck Jane! Hope you find some additional relief soon. Let us know how you’re doing. Best, Kelly

  • rhonda
    4 years ago

    I COULDNT AGREE MORE. I AM SO LUCKY TO HAVE FOUND A WONDERFUL RHUMATOLOGIST SHE MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I AM HER ONLY PATIENT WHEN I AM IN HER OFFICE,SHE NEVER QUESTIONS MY PAIN OR COMPLAINTS AND IS ALWAYS SHARING ANY IDEAS SHE HAS FOR WAYS TO HELP MANAGE MY DISEASE AND STOP FURTHER DAMAGE. SHE IS A WONDERFUL DR. AND I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR HER. THANKS FOR YOUR STORY SOMETIMES WE FORGET THAT WE ARE IN CHARGE OF WHO WE CHOOSE TO CARE FOR US. FINDING A RHUMATOLOGIST WHO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH CAN SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE A BLIND DATE. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks Rhonda! Agreed and glad you have a great rheumatologist who helps you manage your disease. Happy holidays and hope you feel well in the New Year! 🙂

  • Poll