Finding My New Rheumatologist Part 2

Last updated: April 2022

I previously wrote about my rheumatologist retiring and how I was now tasked with finding a new rheumatologist by the end of May 2022. I developed criteria and searched the landscape for available doctors I thought might work.

Gathering a list of rheumatologists

My first stop was to see my infusion center nurse who knows many rheumatologists. She made two suggestions. I had to rule one of the two out because I am not willing to travel several additional miles in a busy urban area to visit a rheumatologist. However, I heard excellent things about him from two sources, and if I had been closer, he would have been on the list.

First up, Dr. K

My infusion nurse suggested another rheumatologist, but she had just recently and abruptly left practice with my hospital system. She went into a new multi-doctor practice. She cut ties with my hospital system and no longer had privileges there. Still, her references were so good I had to put her on my list for visitation. I will call her Dr. K.

Second on the list, Dr. E

I also decided to visit a new rheumatologist who took the space formerly occupied by Dr. K. This is close to my house, and my hospital system employs her. She has full hospital privileges, and she is well connected to ACR. I was attracted to her youth and when I met with her, she was well prepared and enjoyed having me discuss my case. She challenged some of my notions and I challenged some of hers—all positives. I will call her Dr. E.

Lastly, Dr. S

Finally, I wanted to visit a rheumatologist I met along the way. She works closely with the Arthritis Foundation and, several years ago, I resolved that when my current rheumatologist left practice, I would go to her. She is middle-aged, very skilled, and willing to engage in care discussions. From the first time I met her, I thought she would be my next rheumatologist. The difficulty was she dropped out of sight when I began my search. She abruptly closed her office, shut off her telephones, and was gone. I tried to get messages to her through the Arthritis Foundation with no luck. I will call her Dr. S. Unfortunately, with her abrupt disappearance, I ruled out Dr. S.

Interviewing prospective doctors

Dr. E

I first visited with Dr. E, and while I was not expecting much, we hit it off. She understood I was interviewing doctors, so she treated it like a consultation. She challenged my treatment goals and methods, and I challenged her expectations. It was an enjoyable conversation and I liked the parting touch when she said she had met and liked my current rheumatologist. She asked me to tell him hello for her and send her well wishes on retirement. I was impressed, but none of my sources had recommended her, and I was leery of just signing on without doing at least one more interview.

Dr. K

The office was cold and the people behind the front desk were not wearing masks. There was no enforced social distancing, and some patients were in the office without masks. I checked in and took a seat. When the medical assistant came to get me, I tried to engage her in conversation, but she did not respond. Once in the room, she took my medical history, and I did not see evidence of a smile the entire time. I sensed she was not so happy to be at the office that day.

When the doctor came in, she was factual and insistent that I should reevaluate my care. We ran through my case and she told me what she intended to do. I do not recall her asking what I wanted to achieve. At the end of the appointment, she told me that Dr. S would soon be joining this practice. I told her I had wanted to visit with Dr. S and make an appointment for my third interview. Dr. K did not object or seem to care all that much. She said she was looking forward to having Dr. S as a practice partner.

Dr. S, back in play?

As I left the office, I asked if I could schedule an appointment with Dr. S. That was when the true and worst colors of the practice became apparent to me. The initial response to my query was no. So, I asked why? The answer was that I had already chosen Dr. K, and I could not "doctor shop" within their practice. I asked to see the practice manager, and he was steadfast that I could not do it. It took about 10 minutes of discussion for him to allow me to schedule with Dr. S. I found the interaction extremely off-putting.

The practice manager repeated that no one gets to interview rheumatologists, at least not in his practice. I was simply amazed he would say such a thing. The result is that I made and later canceled my appointment with Dr. S. The practice environment is as important to me as the doctor. I could not believe how arrogant and condescending many in this practice were to me. I must live with both the practice and the doctor. I must like both to be successful.

Choosing my new rheumatologist

Regardless of how much I might like the rheumatologist, it cannot overcome how I felt at checkout. Frankly, I do not think I could live with the front office of this practice. A little bit of front office drama goes a long way for me. So, I chose Dr. E. Now, will she get used to my odd sense of humor? Only time will tell.

Does the front office staff influence your willingness to see a rheumatologist?

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