Finding a new rheumatologist can be stressful for patients because they may be concerned they may not be left without a doctor in the meantime, and unable to obtain needed medications or help for any crisis situation that could arise. For people with rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) / rheumatoid disease (RD), a good rheumatologist is a lifeline to improved function (getting one’s life back) and possibly extending one’s life.
What to look for in a new rheumatologist:
- Asks questions, listens for answers.
- Makes eye contact. Shakes hands gently.
- Education is recent or up to date. Attending American College of Rheumatology (ACR) meetings every year or so is a good sign.
- Encourages patients to become informed and educated about their diagnosis.
- Welcomes friend or family member as an appointment companion.
- Views you as the manager of your treatment plan, seeing you as a partner.
Where to look for a new rheumatologist:
- Ask friends, other doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and hospital staff. (I had medical records clerk warn me about a particular surgeon with a reputation for being abusive. Eventually, I witnessed it myself. I should have listened to her. )
- Use a wide radius: be willing to drive an hour or two.
- Try to use a university or teaching hospital. The doctor will be more up to date on current studies and treatment.
- Search doctor rating websites for lemons and gems. Try sites like angieslist.com, RateMDs, Vitals, Healthgrades, and Google reviews.
- Use the phonebook to call rheumatology offices, asking pertinent questions.
- Cross check credentials, education, or pertinent questions online. Try Google, Facebook, LinkedIn.
What to do when you see a new rheumatologist:
- Make an appointment, saying that you are hoping to find a new rheumatologist. (Yes, this sounds like you are trying them out. That is the point.)
- Obtain all records and make copies for the new doc’s office. Offer to pre-send your records if the doctor prefers.
- Fill out as much paperwork as possible ahead of time and try to arrive early.
- Type up a summary of past and current RA-related issues and treatments. Include lists of current medications and all past RA-related medicines.
- Be appreciative, cheerful, and polite when possible. Try to make friends with the staff.
- Bring someone with you to help understand & remember what was said.
- Listen to the doctor’s opinions, even taking notes. Ask pertinent questions.
- If you are treated very well, consider sending cookies or a Christmas card. (Good people deserve to be recognized, even if they are just doing their job.)
- Do not go back if you are treated disrespectfully. Tell them why you cannot come back.
- Meeting the New Rheumatoid Arthritis Specialist
- 20 Tips for Managing Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
- 20 Questions RA Patients Should Ask a Doctor
Edit: Updated images and links 3/29/17.