Patient Role

Role of the Patient in the Management of Rheumatic Diseases


Patient-centered care is the hallmark of quality health care. This approach encourages respectful and responsive collaboration between health care professionals and patients and takes into consideration patients’ preferences, needs, and values. Patients play an integral role in the management of your rheumatic condition and are key in helping the health care provider make an accurate diagnosis and co-creating an optimal treatment plan.

As a patient, you have some basic rights that inform all aspects of your care and interactions with health care providers, including:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect and feel confident that your preferences, values, and needs have been heard
  • To receive information about the arthritis diagnosis through up-to-date and easy-to-read educational materials and programs
  • To receive a full explanation of the risks and benefits of treatments and services being offered, and give informed consent prior to starting any treatment
  • To be informed about health and wellness services available in the local community to support individuals with arthritis and associated chronic diseases

As a patient, you also have several responsibilities to ensure the care received is appropriate and has the greatest chance of being effective, including:


  • Become knowledgeable about your rheumatic illness and treatment options by asking your care providers for information about your condition or additional community resources that can assist you in learning more.
  • Know all your medications, what they are for, the dosage, and how to take them appropriately.
  • Know your care team and assist them in communicating with each other by sharing their contact information and providing the appropriate forms to allow timely communication between providers.
  • Read all medical and patient information forms before signing them, and if you don’t understand what the forms are for, ask your care provider or the support staff.
  • Join a trusted organization that focuses on your illness to stay current on medical information, as well as other care information that promotes disease self-management, such as support groups.

Communication/Shared Decision-Making

  • Ask questions and write information in a safe place so that you can easily refer to it.
  • Get clarification from the care provider when you don’t understand.
  • Document your medical history and track changes in your symptoms and illness presentation to share with your providers in a timely way.
  • Communicate clearly with your health care team, which may include a primary care physician, rheumatologist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and other professionals involved in rheumatology care.
  • Actively participate in decisions about your care, since it is important to understand the risks and benefits associated with different medications or treatment approaches.
  • Work with your providers to create a care plan together and ensure they understand your family and home situation so that these are considered in the plan.
  • Invest in the relationship with the team and be honest and open about your symptoms and level of adherence to recommended treatments to ensure you get the right diagnosis and treatment.
  • Be respectful, even when you are upset and scared.


  • Speak up and ask questions about your care and treatment plan.
  • Know your options and your rights as a patient.
  • Invite a family member or friend to be a part of your care experience to assist in advocating for your care needs, especially at times when you are not feeling well.


  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity (as appropriate), a proper diet and nutrition, and adequate rest.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors that can worsen disease symptoms and make treatments less effective, such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, or drug abuse.
  • Fill all prescriptions in a timely manner.
  • Follow mutually agreed upon treatment plans and update health care providers of any changes in your symptoms or treatment side effects.

Where Does the Patient Access Treatment Services?

Most medical and rehabilitation care for patient with rheumatic conditions can be provided through private, clinic, or outpatient-based services. Admission to a hospital for initial diagnosis, testing, and management of acute disease may be needed in some cases. Surgery, such as a partial or total joint replacement, also requires a short hospital stay and, in some cases, admission to an inpatient facility for further rehabilitation care.

This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment of a medical or health condition.

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