Doctor visits can be rushed, but good planning can help improve your rheumatoid arthritis management.
When you visit your healthcare provider for rheumatoid arthritis, you may feel intimidated, nervous, or rushed. You may hear a lot of information, and it may be hard to remember. You might come with questions, but forget to ask them.
These are common dilemmas, but there are many ways to make your doctor appointments be more effective and successful. A small amount of preparation may help you make the most of each visit for rheumatoid arthritis.
What are tips for better doctor visits for rheumatoid arthritis?
1. Write down questions ahead of time
One of the biggest issues many people have in doctor visits is that they forget to ask all their questions. Being face to face with your healthcare provider is one of the best times to get these answers.
Don’t leave it to memory: Write down all your questions before the appointment. That way, if your mind goes blank once you’re in the doctor’s office, you’ll still have your notes to guide the way.
2. Take notes before and during the visit
Along with questions, write down the comments you want to share during the appointment. For example, have you been having new or worsening side effects? Does it seem like your current treatment is working? Have you been having new or worsening symptoms? These may be important details to share with your provider.
Be honest with your doctor. In order for them to be the best partner in your rheumatoid arthritis management, they need to know what you’re experiencing. You don’t need to sugarcoat your comments if you feel like your current treatment isn’t a good fit.
During the visit, jot down notes based on your conversation with your doctor. They may have instructions or tips that are very helpful, and writing them down will make it easier to remember later.
3. Consider bringing a loved one for support
Most doctors will generally allow you to bring a loved one — like a friend, family member, or caregiver — to your appointment. There are many benefits to this:
- If you’re nervous, your loved one can provide moral support
- Your loved one can help process and remember the information
- Your loved one may think of useful questions
- Your loved one may be able to help take notes during the appointment
What happens if you forget to ask certain questions in your appointment?
As helpful as it is to get your questions answered during your doctor visits, it’s never too late. Consider asking your provider about the best ways to contact them if you have urgent questions in between appointments.
If you frequently have questions, another good option is to schedule a telemedicine appointment. This way, you can mimic the face-to-face experience with your doctor to get your questions answered. The more information you have, the more empowered you may feel to manage your rheumatoid arthritis.
Elizabeth Schulman, MD, is a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.