Managing your Rheumatoid Arthritis as a partner with your doctors
I’ve answered so many questions from people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) /rheumatoid disease (RD) who are unsure why their rheumatologist makes certain decisions. Why does she or he prescribe a certain medicine? When do I need that test? Should patients cooperate blindly with the doctor? Or discretely refuse to comply? Wouldn’t it be best if you were managing your rheumatoid arthritis together with your doctors? In truth, patients are the ones actually are managing their disease day to day.
Wouldn’t it be better if there could be a productive discussion? I know that communication is not always perfect between patients and doctors. We have plenty of suggestions for how doctors can improve their part. However, here are some things that we can do to to promote a productive relationship while managing your rheumatoid arthritis.
- Get lab work completed promptly. Request your own copies. Keep them in a file with all of your test results.
- Look up information about lab test results online to become familiar with what the terms mean.
- Ask the doctor to explain exactly what any lab test indicates. If you don’t understand test results, ask him to explain them to you.
- Always bring an updated list of your medications and any major changes in health-related factors.
- Ask the doctor to explain exactly what any prescription is intended for and what the benefits are for you.
- Specifically discuss anything that you suspect to be a side effect of RA medicines.
- Bring a list of the top 2 or 3 things that you want the doctor to address during an appointment.
- Bring a notebook to write down instructions from the doctor or details you may want look up later.
- Ask questions about anything you do not understand. Be understanding if he/she needs to schedule another appointment to discuss lengthy questions.
- Bring someone with you to help you to remember any details or provide moral support.
- Clearly explain to the doctor how your rheumatoid arthritis is affecting your work at a job. Be specific about what you are unable to do due to RA.
- Convey specifically what rheumatoid arthritis symptoms prevent you from doing at home, too. This should include self-care and daily chores.
- Tell the doctor where it hurts. (Mine don’t ask, but they should know).
- Obtain copies of reports for all diagnostic imaging such as x-rays. Bring copies to relevant appointments. Keep them in a file. Make sure that you understand the reports. Ask questions if necessary.
- Forward any reports from other doctors that you are seeing if they are at all relevant.
- Politely request copies of doctor’s notes so that you can see his impressions of each visit and your case.
- Ask him /her about any comments in your file that you do not understand or with which you do not agree.
- Always bring any insurance identification and documentation. Communicate with office manager about any outstanding balance so that they know you are being conscientious about your account.
- Follow office rules whenever possible like wearing no cologne or rescheduling appointments in a timely manner.
- Learn as much as possible by reading about Rheumatoid Arthritis in reputable books and websites.
The difficult job of managing your Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment
It’s not easy to be an advocate for ourselves. It’s hard to tell others about the rheumatoid arthritis pain that we fear makes us sound like a crazy hypochondriac. Neither do we want to make requests that may make us appear pushy. It is much easier to advocate for others.
However, you should approach managing your rheumatoid arthritis in ways which are respectfully assertive. We should all be as clear and specific as possible when we discuss RA symptoms, RA treatment, or other RA-related problems. We also need to be well-informed so that we can make objective decisions which will be best promote our health.
- 21 Things to Know About Finding a New Rheumatologist
- Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Are There New Clues?
- Medical Records Tip for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Read the Doctors’ notes
- What is Remission of Rheumatoid Arthritis? Part 1
Edit: Updated image 3/30/17.