Referrals / Recommendations:
Obtain a referral from your current or past doctor. Consider getting a personal recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. Should you consult a rheumatologist? A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in arthritis and related diseases. Most often, a patient is referred to a rheumatologist by their primary care physician after presenting symptoms of arthritis.
Coverage May Limit Your Choices:
If you don't have a referral, choose from the list of doctors approved by your health insurance. Obviously, your specific health insurance coverage should be congruent with your choice of doctor. Insurance coverage can make it a more narrow field from which you can choose your doctor.
Credentials / Experience:
Inquire about the doctor's credentials and experience. It is useful to know the doctor's specialty and subspecialty. If you have multiple health problems or comorbid conditions, is your doctor diversified enough to handle the entire situation? If your doctor specializes, does he have a good team of associate doctors? Can you be assured that there will be continuity of care even if other doctors are called upon?
Make sure the doctor is board certified. A doctor who is board-certified has taken several extra years of specialty training and passed a rigorous board examination. Some boards also require continuing education and periodic recertification.
Convenience:Make sure the doctor is at a convenient location. Having to travel far for frequent appointments can be aggravating. Ideally, the location of your doctor's office should be convenient. Is your doctor affiliated with the hospital of your choice if you were to require hospitalization?
Consider the office hours of the doctor and how after-hours calls are handled. Consider how much time the doctor allows between appointments.
Your First Appointment:
Make an initial appointment to determine if you are comfortable with the doctor. The doctor must be willing to listen to your concerns, be open to all of your questions and be candid, yet caring. There should be an ease and comfort when you talk.
There is no other way to say it - your doctor should exude confidence and be conversant, having knowledge and experience. The doctor must leave you feeling that your health care is under control.
Effective Communication:Does the doctor fully explain why he is ordering certain tests or recommending specific treatments? Ask questions to see if the doctor welcomes or resists questions from you. Ask if the doctor would resist a second opinion.
Ask how the doctor feels about alternative treatments. Many alternative treatments have gained in popularity and serve to complement more traditional therapies. Some alternative approaches have questions regarding their efficacy and safety. Many doctors are not open to alternative treatments and as a result, are not helpful in guiding patients away from unproven arthritis remedies which may be non-effective or harmful.
How The Doctor Office Is Run:
Decide if you are comfortable around the other medical personnel working for the doctor. Observe if the waiting room seems overly crowded on more than one occasion. Somtimes a longer-than-acceptable wait is understandable, but if long waits are the norm or if the entire office operation seems chaotic, this may not be the best situation which suits your needs.
Patient Education / Participation:Ask if the doctor values patient education and participation. Patient education should enhance the doctor-patient relationship. Patient education is for the purpose of better understanding. Being an informed patient is not a substitute for trusting your doctor. Patient education must not diminish the role of your doctor who ultimately must lead, direct, and decide the best course of medical treatment for you.
- Building a strong doctor-patient relationship is important step in treating your arthritis. Positive attitude can also be part of an effective treatment plan. Positive attributes are necessary to manage life with a chronic disease. High moments and low moments speckle the life of someone living with arthritis. Life with arthritis is a continuum of peaks and troughs. To survive in the troughs, you must harbor positive attributes. Do you have a positive attitude?