As a person with a rheumatoid arthritis (RA), one of the most important relationships you have is that with your rheumatologist. They are your partner in the fight against the disease, the person who supports and advises you, and sometimes the doctor who saves you. Finding someone with whom you can build relationship of trust, respect, and honesty is essential.
Why you should interview a doctor
One way to get a sense of whether a new doctor will be a good fit is to interview them. This can seem quite the revolutionary statement — traditionally, we are handed the name of our new doctor with not much choice in the matter. But by empowering yourself to think (and act) outside the box, you can create a situation where it is more likely that you and your doctor will be a great team.
Being able to have an initial, “informational” appointment that is solely focused on getting to know each other can be a great start. It gives you time to learn about the doctor’s background, their viewpoints on treatments and alternative remedies, find out information about their affiliations (hospital and labs), and if they have a sense of humor.
How to interview a new doctor
Interviewing a doctor should start with doing a bit of research. You can talk to people you know who are patients of the doctor, or check online for information about their practice, as well as a bit of background on them. You may want to check their rating online at for instance, RateMDs.com, but take the reviews with a grain of salt.
The next step is calling to book the interview appointment. Your interaction with the front line staff will help you get a feel for how the office works and the tone in the practice. This is also a great opportunity to find out how far out appointments are booked, the policy on emergency appointments, as well as details on access to transportation and parking.
Come prepared with a list of questions for your interview appointment. These can include approach to treatment, both in terms of the medications the doctor prescribes, as well as how comfortable they are working as a team with you. You may also want to ask about their opinion on a range of alternative remedies and whether they are available by email in between appointments. Expect that the doctor may want to ask you questions, as well. Throughout the conversation, pay attention to their body language, eye contact, and how they handle the discussion.
Barriers to interviews
You may encounter certain obstacles to interviewing a doctor.
One of these barriers can be the availability of rheumatologists in your area. If you have a limited choice (or no choice at all), it may still be a good idea to create some time solely for the purposes of getting to know each other. You may want to book an appointment specifically to talk, or you can book a double appointment, which will give you more time to discuss your condition, as well as learn more about each other.
You may also receive some pushback from the doctor themselves. Not all physicians are comfortable with empowered patients who take the lead in a clinical setting. Reactions may range from nervousness to outright refusal to take part in an interview. This in itself could be an indication that you may want to choose another rheumatologist.
If for whatever reasons you are not able to find your ideal medical partner, all is not lost. It’s very likely that you and your rheumatologist will be able to build your relationship over time. If you start from a foundation of respect, kindness, and patience, the two of you will be able to create an excellent team.
See More Helpful Articles:
A Beginner’s Guide to RA: How to Be a Self Advocate
When to Get a Second Opinion
Preparing for Your First Appointment with a Rheumatologist
Lene Andersen is the Community Leader for HealthCentral's RA Community. Lene (pronounced Lena) is an award-winning writer, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. She’s written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Follow Lene on Twitter @TheSeatedView and on Facebook. Watch her story on HealthCentral.