Coordinating Care Between Doctors
One of the things I have learned during my years of living with rheumatoid arthritis is that I need to see several doctors to manage different effects of the disease. With this requirement, it also becomes important to coordinate my care between doctors.
In my experience, I have needed to become the leader of my health care. This is because no one sees the “whole picture” like I do. I also have found that doctor’s offices typically do not coordinate or communicate well with each other. Either information gets lost in the shuffle or confused like a mumbled game of telephone.
Tips on coordinating care between doctors
- Maintain a primary care physician. While my rheumatologist may remain my most important doctor-patient relationship, I have found it crucial to have a good primary care physician who examines me for overall health. She is interested in hearing from all of my doctors and knowing what issues I am managing in order to see the larger picture. I see her a couple times a year and discuss all my health issues, treatments, and we consider how they may overlap and affect my present and future health.
- Report necessary information between doctors. Although I ask my doctors to update each other (especially the primary care physician), I find it helpful to share reports about what I heard and learned during recent visits. I want my doctors to think about how my symptoms may be interrelated and affect different aspects of my health. For example, I’ll tell my rheumatologist what my podiatrist says and vice versa, including any medications or other treatments. While they may be reporting to each other, nothing refreshes their memory or puts things into perspective like having a patient sitting in front of them.
- Compile tests whenever possible. With all my years of blood testing, I have trouble with my veins. I have a near-impossible time giving blood and so I coordinate my tests to minimize the number of needle pokes required in a year. If I know a few doctors will ask for tests, I ask them to compile and order all together. It may seem like a small thing, but it really does reduce the visits for blood testing.
- Get copies of results and reports. With certain doctors (or certain offices), I like having my own copies of results, scans, and reports. Then I can take them with me to the primary care physician or rheumatologist and not have to rely on them collecting or sending information. Sometimes it is just easier for me to be the carrier of knowledge.
- Follow up, confirm, then follow up. I do love my doctors, but sometimes it feels like herding cats. I request a prescription refill, but then the pharmacy doesn’t receive it, so I have to call the office again and make sure the left hand is speaking with the right hand. As much as it can be a pain or feel like a waste of time, I have found that pleasant and persistent follow up is the way to get things done when coordinating between health providers.
I care about my health the most
I know that my doctors care about my health and I feel that I am in good hands. However, no one cares more about my health and well-being than I do. Additionally, no one knows more than I do. I have been here the whole time, for the entire journey! I’ve got my entire history in my head and so the best leader for my care is truly myself. In many ways I am a cheerleader or maybe the manager, getting the team to play together and perform at their best.
What tips can you share about coordinating care between doctors and other health providers?
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?