I knew that with our recent move from VT to VA, I would be facing the inevitable switch from my various medical team members, but I had no idea how wrenching and challenging it would feel nor how difficult. So many of us face this daunting chore and it is yet another hurdle to leap over in our quest for quality medical care.
Finding a new primary care physician
I knew several months in advance where we were re-locating to and so I started my physician search long before our move. I had found doctors I wanted, called, and in most cases, was able to schedule appointments for this fall.
Many providers are moving to concierge medical practice
That said, in our area of VA, there are a lot of primary care physicians moving to concierge medical practices so finding one who takes traditional medical insurance was not easy, but eventually, I found a PCP and I have since seen him and like him very much. PHEW.
Challenges finding a new rheumatologist
I was all set to see the rheumatologist I selected in early November, but they have since had to cancel and I do not have a new appointment. Not a great start. I, thankfully, saw my rheumatologist in VT in October so I am good for a while. That said, it makes me very nervous to not have a rheumatologist of record at the moment. Hopefully, this will be remedied sooner than later.
Assembling my new healthcare team
Add to this the need to acquire a dentist, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, etc. and it really becomes overwhelming. Each of the current medical specialists has to be contacted, forms signed to transfer records, etc. The worst part for me was saying goodbye to the medical team who I had been with for 31 years. My rheumatologist was the only one I ever had since my diagnosis 20+ years ago and the thought of starting over with a new person is very anxiety-inducing, to say the least.
My healthcare team treated various aspects of my RA
If we have a good and solid relationship with our medical team members, they know every nuance of how RA manifests for each of us, including how we react to medications, treatments, and perhaps, most importantly, the emotional aspect of managing a chronic disease.
My last visit with my previous rheumatologist
My last visit with my rheumatologist was not only a goodbye, but also a summary of where I was at now. I knew that I wanted that appointment to end with me having a really solid sense of my RA status so that I could relay that to my new physician. Our final chat included my asking what should I convey to my new doctor that is most important about my case? Is there anything I need to be looking for in a new physician?
A well-rounded picture of my RA
Clinical records being sent are crucial but so is the more subtle information, not recorded in my file. I encourage anyone moving from one doctor to another to get these questions answered. They can be as important to your new relationship with a doctor as any clinical knowledge they may have or offer.
Questions to ask my new primary care physician
I intend to ask a lot of questions at my first visit. As always, I bring a list, along with my own current medication list, which this time will include a number of questions unique to a first visit. For instance, I want to know how willing they are to got to bat for me with insurance. Some physicians will not do that and I need to make sure the one I choose does.
Also, how difficult is it to be seen if you are flaring and it is out of control? I need to know that a practice will do their best to fit me in should I need to be seen. Are the rest of the staff/nurses/receptionists, etc. kind and welcoming? I find this to be a real litmus test of the entire practice. A good physician has good staff. It is that simple. There are additional questions to be answered, but I like to limit the first visit to 3 or 4. I save some for the next time, assuming there is one.
Having a plan to provide guidance
In the end, if we approach this process of starting over in the same way we do any other significant life change, it will be fine. It is all about planning as it always is with the management of a chronic disease.
Have you shared tips on how to manage RA with anyone before?