Establishing Good Communication with Your Rheumatologist

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • Have you ever sat in a doctor’s exam room feeling like you are having a conversation with yourself or wondering if the doctor even remembers you from your last appointment? I have, both with primary care physicians and rheumatologists. I have moved quite a few times in the last 10 years, and therefore had several primary care physicians and rheumatologists. This creates some difficulty in transferring 29 years of RA history to each one, and retelling my history can take up half of my 15 minute visit. But even after several visits, sometimes I have had the feeling that the doctor doesn’t remember me and certainly does not remember the particulars of my treatment.
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    I even had one rheumatologist who never looked me in the eye the entire visit (all five minutes of it). It was my first visit with him, and his resident spent more time with me. I didn’t mind seeing the resident, as all new doctors need to have the hands on learning experience. But the rheumatologist simply glanced over the chart and exclaimed, “Man, what I wouldn’t give to do a genetic study on your family,” did a cursory exam of my joints and quickly wrote me a prescription. There was no meaningful discussion, no feeling of connection or understanding. He was supposed to be best rheumatologist at that hospital. He was even named in radio ads for the hospital. After that experience, I asked to switch to a different physician with a slightly different bedside manner and was much happier with my care.

    A new study published in the June volume of Arthritis Care & Research reports that doctors who have good communication skills are more effective at treating patients with RA and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This seems like an obvious statement, but the study finds that patient-centered conversation builds trust between the patient and doctor. The trust, in turn, is a factor in patient compliance, improved health outcomes and quality of life.

    The researchers also found that patient-centered communication was significantly associated with a patient’s willingness to disclose information to the doctor, which is an important part of effective treatment. The researchers evaluated patient trust along with other factors, including ethnicity, quality of the patient-doctor relationship, disease activity and overall trust in the health-care system. The study found that patients’ trust was independently associated with the other factors. The researchers stressed the importance of patient-centered communication as a necessary factor for increased information and better outcomes. I would certainly agree.
Published On: June 01, 2006