It might begin as a gnawing feeling at the pit of your stomach: “I’m not so sure about this doctor.” Am I right or is this not a good fit? I have questions about the care I’m receiving. Do I have the right to find a new doctor? What is the best course of action for my rheumatoid arthritis and my overall health?
Getting the right care as soon as possible is crucial for RA patients. We can’t waste time on bad doctors and improper care.
Here are some warning signs of a doctor that has got to be dumped:
- Doctor is unresponsive in an emergency—Did you call the doctor when you had a flare, fever, medication reaction or some other RA related emergency and not get a prompt response? Dump them. Seriously, not responding to a patient in pain or some other serious issue is cruel and incompetent. This is the first rule of being a rheumatologist. If your doctor is not available, they should have another doctor look at your file and talk to you to for handling an urgent issue.
- Doctor is rude and inconsiderate—I don’t trust a doctor who doesn’t have compassion for their patients. Maybe it’s simplistic, but if you can’t feel your patients’ pain and want to alleviate it, why go into healthcare in the first place? Being nice is something we all should have learned in preschool, much less medical school.
- Doctor is too rushed or doesn’t listen—The important part of a visit with the doctor is discussion. You need them to listen, ask you questions about your condition, and answer any questions you may have. The doctor can’t understand how you’re doing without taking a few minutes to ask, which also affects your treatment plan. Having a few minutes of quality time is central to the best care.
- Doctor can’t handle paperwork—Unfortunately paperwork is a part of healthcare today. No one loves it, but it helps to keep up-to-date records and facilitate interaction between providers and a health insurer. A sign of competence for a doctor and their office is to be able to promptly and accurately handle paperwork requests. Offices that make major or repetitive mistakes should be called into question. What other major mistakes are they making with your care?
These are the key characteristics I care about in my doctor and all of them are deal breakers. Of course the ultimate measure of care is: do I feel better? Sometimes treatments work, often times we have to experiment and find the right combination. Through it all, having a good doctor can make the journey easier.
Before leaving, it may be worthwhile to express your concerns to the doctor or the office. Maybe they are unaware and would be open to change? Bring it up at an appointment and test the reaction. If there’s no change, then write a letter to document the problem before leaving. We patients need to look out for each other so I see this as a community responsibility. Also, it would be hard for a doctor or an office to improve their care if no one gives them useful feedback.
If you do leave a doctor, be sure you have a good new doctor lined up first. (See Choosing a Doctor article.) You do not want to end the relationship before being certain the new doctor will be an improvement.
Your health is important and very personal. You deserve the best treatment as an RA patient and as a human being. Having to make these calls can be very stressful, but it is crucial that you fight for the care you need to manage this disease.