Talking to your doctor
Your relationship with the rheumatologist is a crucial part of your treatment. That's why it's of the utmost importance take full advantage of the time you have. Since this is your time with the doctor, I encourage you to make the most of it by asking important questions and expressing concerns. I'd like to share some helpful tips for taking charge of your visits.
First, come prepared. Before your appointment, write down questions about symptoms, medications, and any other concerns. In between appointments, take note of any changes in your condition, whether bad or good, and be sure to report them during your visit. It may also help to bring along a friend or family member to act as your patient advocate, someone who can act as another set of ears during your visit with the doctor.
For examples of questions to ask during your visit, check out the Rheumatologist Discussion Guide in the "Preparing to Visit a Rheumatologist" section of RheumatoidArthritis.com.
It may also help to prioritize your concerns, and if it helps, write them down in a list. This can ensure that you get the answers to your most pressing concerns.
Establishing a good rapport with your doctor is another way to make visits more productive. It can also make you feel more comfortable opening up to your doctor, which makes it more likely that you'll get the answers you need.
During your visit, feel free to take notes. Before the end of your appointment, take a few minutes to review your notes. If there is anything you still don't fully understand, ask the doctor to repeat or clarify. It is very important that you leave your appointment with a full understanding of the information and instructions your doctor gives you.
It may also help to realize that the doctor wants to help you. So don't be afraid to open up, even if you think you may sound silly. As a rheumatologist, I can assure you that you don't. Remember, the more specific you are about how you’re feeling, the better your rheumatologist will be able to assess whether your treatment is working adequately — or whether it might be time to try something different.
You're the only one who really knows how you feel from day to day. This kind of information is extremely valuable for your doctor. In addition to lab tests and a physical exam, the conversation you have with your rheumatologist plays a large role in determining the best possible treatment for you.
Studies show that the average amount of time patients spend with the doctor is less than 20 minutes. Since this is your time with the doctor, make the most of it by asking important questions and expressing concerns. Below are some tips for taking charge of your visits.
Tips for making the most of your visit
Come prepared. Before your appointment, write down questions about symptoms, medications and any other concerns you have about your condition or how you've been feeling. Be sure to note any changes in your condition since your last visit. Keeping a diary of symptoms and concerns can help make it easier to remember these changes when the time comes to talk to your doctor about them. It may also help to bring along a friend or family member to act as your patient advocate.
Prioritize your concerns. To further maximize time, try to prioritize your concerns so that the most important ones are sure to be addressed during your visit. Showing the doctor your list can also be a good way to let the doctor know that you are invested in your own care and that you take it very seriously.
Set the tone. Establishing a good rapport with your doctor can help make visits more productive. It can also make you feel more comfortable opening up to your doctor and even asking him or her to repeat information that you may not understand. When you feel at ease, you may be more likely to cover all the topics you intended to discuss and get the answers you need.
Review the discussion. Studies show that only 15% of patients leave doctor visits with a full understanding of what their doctors tell them. Research also shows that a large percentage (about 50%) of patients are still uncertain about what the doctor has instructed them to do. During your visit, it may help to take notes. Before you leave the doctor's office, take a few minutes to review your notes, pointing out anything you don't understand or that you may need repeated. It is important to fully understand the doctor's answers to your questions and any instructions about medications or taking care of yourself.
Remember, the more specific you are about how you're feeling, the better your rheumatologist will be able to assess whether your treatment is working adequately — or whether it might be time to try something different.
Below are some additional resources that can help you in your conversations with your doctor.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis Profile Sheet, or R.A.P. Sheet, is an interactive tool that can help you and your doctor assess your symptoms. Once you've answered the questions, you can print them out and bring them with you to discuss at your next appointment.
This diary will help you track your symptoms over time. Rheumatoid arthritis can progress very slowly, so it might be helpful to have a record of how you were feeling. This way, you and your doctor can get a better understanding of how you're managing your condition.
This page can serve as a starting point for a conversation with your rheumatologist. It has questions you may want to ask about the disease and treatment options. There is also a space to write down questions of your own, so you can make sure to get all of the answers you're looking for.
This checklist contains some things you'll want to keep in mind for your next visit to your rheumatologist.
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