Tips for Making Doctor Appointments More Successful

Tips for Making Doctor Appointments More Successful

Getting a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. It is a chronic condition that can be challenging to live with. Most patients experience fatigue and pain, and their movement can be limited due to swollen and sore joints. These symptoms can negatively affect quality of life. They can also bring up feelings of anxiety and depression.

One of the most important parts of getting good medical care is communicating with your doctor and healthcare team so you can make smart, informed decisions about your health. That includes getting detailed information about your condition, how it can be treated, what the possible side effects of different treatment options are, and what you can do to improve your quality of life. It also includes information about coping with your diagnosis and treatment, both emotionally and financially.1

Psoriatic Arthritis In America 2018 survey results

Symptoms and quality of life

Our 2018 Psoriatic Arthritis In America survey results show similar experiences and challenges among our survey respondents — both in terms of their symptoms and their concerns about quality of life. Only about 7% were satisfied with their current treatment plan, and a full 36% were “not at all content” with their quality of life right now.2

The top symptoms among our survey participants included:2

  • 96% fatigue
  • 94% painful, swollen, or stiff joints
  • 88% lower back and/or neck pain
  • 82% reduced range of motion in the joints

When it came to quality of life, our survey respondents cited pain as one of the most troublesome symptoms. In addition, nearly one-third had difficulty sleeping because of their symptoms, and more than one-third felt financial stress. Lack of sleep and money worries can further undermine quality of life.

Communicating with healthcare providers

Given the dissatisfaction with their treatment plans and quality of life, it appears that there is an opportunity for providers to engage more proactively with their patients in discussing emotional, financial, and other quality-of-life issues. This might help patients feel more satisfied with their treatment choices and overall quality of life.

According to our survey, rheumatologists were by far the majority (80%) of specialists managing our respondents’ PsA. The results showed areas of relative strength in communication between patients and their doctors. For example, 7 out of 10 people felt comfortable discussing all aspects of their PsA with their healthcare provider.2

However, there were some areas that could use improvement. For example, only 60% felt their provider:2

  • understood their questions and concerns
  • acknowledged their pain
  • clearly explained treatment options
  • provided easy-to-understand test results
  • agreed on their disease severity

The results were even less positive when it came to questions that refer directly to quality-of-life issues. For example, fewer than 50% of respondents felt their provider:

  • regularly discussed quality-of-life issues with them
  • assisted with navigating insurance coverage or financial issues
  • communicated effectively with other healthcare providers

This lack of clarity and agreement can further interfere with patients’ quality of life as well as giving them less control over their treatment options.2

Disagreement about disease severity

One striking result from our survey was the disconnect between patients and doctors when it came to disease severity. For example, only 11% of patients believed they had mild PsA, whereas clinical results showed that 59% of patients had mild cases—a nearly six-fold difference. Likewise, 64% of patients felt they had moderate PsA, whereas clinical results showed 39% of people with moderate disease.2

This disconnect is significant because patients who feel their disease is more serious are also less satisfied with their treatment plan. Clear, open, and honest communication between patients and healthcare providers might help bridge this gap.

Preparing to communicate with your healthcare provider

There are ways to prepare so you have the best chances of communicating effectively with your healthcare provider.3

These include:

  1. Starting a healthcare journal, so you can keep all your information in one place
  2. Writing a list of questions before each appointment
  3. Writing down your doctor’s answers, so you can refer to the information again
  4. Bringing a friend to your appointment to help track and record information

Tips for communicating with your healthcare provider

A research study from the University of Rochester aimed to train patients and doctors in better communication strategies.

The patient training encouraged people to:4

  • Be assertive and not to limit your questions because of embarrassment or fear
  • Ask questions about your disease, choice of treatment, and quality of life
  • Ask about the positive and negative aspects of different choices
  • Ask your doctor to explain when you do not understand
  • Feel free to express your opinions and concerns
  • Feel free to express your emotions, including fear, anxiety, and sadness

You are the consumer

Honest and open discussion with your healthcare provider is critically important in making sure you have the best outcome and experience in managing and treating your PsA. Remember that you are the consumer and you have a right to learn and understand your options as well as to share your experiences and concerns.

Be sure to ask any questions you have, no matter how personal or embarrassing they might seem. Your doctor has probably heard them before. In the end, your care team wants to be sure you understand your treatment options and what to expect, so you can be prepared and have the best quality of life possible, despite living with a challenging chronic health condition.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Psoriatic-Arthritis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Talking to your doctor. National Institutes of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. Updated November 27, 2017. https://www.nih.gov/institutes-nih/nih-office-director/office-communications-public-liaison/clear-communication/talking-your-doctor Accessed August 15, 2018.
  2. Psoriatic Arthritis in America. Health Union. 2018.
  3. Don’t Be Shy: 4 Tips for Talking to Your Doctor. HopkinsMedicine.org. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-woman/conditions/dont-be-shy-4-tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor Accessed August 16, 2018.
  4. Communicating with Your Doctor. UCSF Health. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/communicating_with_your_doctor/ Accessed August 10, 2018.

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