Making the Most of Your Rheumatology Appointment
April 25, 2023 | Rheumatic Disease
Making the most of your appointment with your rheumatologist promotes better health by ensuring that the appointment time is focused on your health and filled with productive communication with your doctor. Here are some of my top recommendations to maximize your rheumatology care appointment time.
Keep a journal.
If feasible, I recommend that my patients keep a journal of how they are feeling in-between their appointments. Keeping a short log for each day would be ideal, but if that is not something you can commit to, I recommend keeping a log of the day(s) you have a flare-up, including the date, time, a description of your symptoms, any aggravating or alleviating factors, and the medications/dosages you took that day. A night or two before your appointment, quickly read over the logs to know what to focus on during your appointment. Bring the log along with you for easy reference! Show up early. I recommend showing up early to your appointment. You should aim to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for follow-up visits and 30 minutes early for a new patient appointment. Check with the office beforehand as some arrival policies may already be in place. Arriving early prevents delays and maximizes the time spent with your doctor. If you are going to take part in a televisit, make sure to check the audio and video functions in advance. You should also sit in an area that is quiet and has adequate connectivity.
Send medical records.
If you are a new patient, try to have previous medical records sent a few days before your first appointment, especially if you have had any diagnosis prior to this visit. If you have seen a rheumatologist before, it is always nice to have those records as well. If this is a follow-up visit, then inform the clinic of any new records you may have from other appointments or specialists so they can be requested ahead of time.
Write a list of your medications.
Bring an updated list of medications and dosages. If you are on any supplements or over-the-counter medications, include those as well. If refills are needed, I would mark those on the list so that you don’t forget to discuss.
Create a list of questions to review at your appointment and leave room for any new questions that may arise during the visit. If your loved one is involved in your care, ask them if they have any questions as well. Always feel free to ask questions—especially about new medications or changes in your treatment plan. Open dialogue is one of the best ways to have a successful appointment.
I recommend dressing comfortably for your appointment. If there is a particular physical finding you would like to discuss at the appointment—such as a rash or joint swelling—you may want to request a patient gown. Each clinic may have its own routine regarding this, so be sure to check with them first.
Repeat your understanding.
At the end of the visit, repeat your understanding of your treatment plan or of any changes that were made during the visit. If needed, set a time and date for a follow-up and discuss whether labs are needed prior to that visit.
Continue the conversation.
Before leaving the appointment, ask the clinic the best way to continue the conversation in-between appointments. It is important to know how to reach your doctor for anything that may arise in between your visits.