You and Your Rheum

Physicians are an integral part of the healthcare system in providing quality care for patients. Before seeing a rheumatologist, take time to prepare for your appointment by identifying issues that need to be communicated and writing down questions you may have about your condition. 

There is a known shortage of rheumatologists in many regions of Canada. This shortage is projected to worsen over the next decade as older rheumatologists retire. A recent study established many patients wait over two months to see a rheumatologist in Canada. Only a third of psoriatic arthritis patients were seen by the rheumatologist within six weeks as is recommended by guidelines.  

When you have an upcoming appointment with your rheumatologist, make sure to follow these steps so you leave your appointment informed and with an appropriate management plan that works for you. 

Before Your Appointment 

The medical history is important information for your rheumatologist. Make sure to keep a log of your symptoms, such as joint pain, onset and severity of pain, impact on daily functions, pain triggers and alleviating factors. Write down medical conditions you have previously been diagnosed with so you can easily recall at the office. Do some research and see whether there is history of rheumatological conditions in your family.

Given a packed schedule, a rheumatologist may only be able to spend 15 minutes with every patient; therefore, it is important to jot down all the issues you want to discuss at the appointment. This will allow you to feel prepared in a time-crunch setting and provide reassurance that all pertinent information has been addressed with your rheumatologist.

It is also a good idea to take a note pad or a device for note taking. In an appointment, you are trying to communicate your points, process information and understand the management plan. It can be overwhelming in the moment, so it is helpful to have that information to look back on after the appointment. If possible, you can also take a trusted family member or friend to the appointment, so they can provide support and help you recall information later. 

Create a list for: 

  • current medications
  • previous medications and duration
  • previous diagnosed conditions
  • symptoms and duration
  • questions and concerns regarding your condition

During Your Appointment

In order to build a patient-physician relationship with your rheumatologist, it is important to establish open communication and transparency. 

  • It is okay to ask for clarification or a simpler explanation if you don’t understand medical terminology. 
  • You should inquire about symptoms and prognosis associated with your diagnosis.
  • Ask if there are lifestyle modifications that can improve your condition and for resources that can help you make those changes.
  • When treatment options are presented to you, find out what their side effects are and how likely these are to apply to you. 
  • Ask your rheumatologist to write down instructions or product recommendations so you can reference them in the future. 
  • If you are not comfortable with the treatment plan or are not agreeable to taking a certain medication, say so! Your rheumatologist can work with you to create a plan that works for you and gives you better health outcomes. It is important to be honest and transparent with your doctor so they can give you the best chance at optimal managing your condition.
  • Ask your rheumatologist about resources or supports that are available to you for psoriatic arthritis. 
  • It may be helpful to repeat key points back to your rheumatologist to ensure you understand contents of the discussion.
  • Make sure to reference and review your list for unanswered questions before the appointment ends. Follow-up appointments are usually booked weeks to months in advance. 

Being prepared in advance for your upcoming appointment will allow for a meaningful discussion with your rheumatologist, and leave you well-equipped to start the treatment plan and optimally manage your condition!