Managing a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) requires an equal partnership between doctors and patients. Here are four things rheumatologists, including myself, want people living with RA to know:
1. You should feel comfortable expressing your concerns and fears
Findings from the RA NarRAtive survey,* an international initiative aimed at elevating the important role of patients in managing RA, revealed that 61% of those living with RA feel uncomfortable raising concerns and fears with their physician, and 32% worry that if they ask too many questions, it will negatively affect the quality of care they receive. Although it can sometimes feel overwhelming to share everything about your RA, you should not feel afraid to express how you are feeling. To best manage your condition, it’s essential that you share every way in which RA impacts your life with your doctor, and not focus just on your physical symptoms.
2. Prepare in advance for your appointments to help make the most of your time together
Sometimes there is not enough time during appointments to talk about everything you’d like to discuss with your doctor. In fact, findings from the RA NarRAtive survey show that both physicians and patients wish they could spend more time together. I tell people living with RA to be proactive in bringing up concerns and questions by preparing a list before your appointment, so that you can efficiently prioritize the most important things you’d like to discuss.
To help prepare for your next appointment with your rheumatologist, try using the Doctor Conversation Worksheet to organize what you'd like to talk about. Preparing in advance for your appointments will allow you to make the most out of the short time you have together.
“Decisions about your disease management plan are a two-way street that should include input from both you and your doctor.”
3. Doctors want to include you in treatment decisions
Decisions about your disease management plan are a two-way street that should include input from both you and your doctor. According to the RA NarRAtive survey, almost all physicians agree that patients who are involved with treatment decisions tend to be more satisfied with their treatment experience. Becoming more involved in your disease management plan will help ensure your unique concerns, goals and circumstances are considered along with your doctor’s expertise in personalizing your therapy.
4. Finding a disease management plan for you may take time
Your doctor wants to help you address your symptoms as quickly as possible. However, finding a disease management plan that works for you can sometimes take more time than you’d like. Partner together to come up with realistic goals that target symptoms or problem areas you are most concerned about first.
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*Based on global survey involving 3,649 adult patients seeing a doctor to manage their RA. Additional information available.