Tips for finding a good rheumatologist (or any other doctor)

This question has come up on two different online communities that I’m a member of, so I thought I would share the information from my posts here. While I am focussing on rheumatologists, since they are the most important doctor for most autoimmune patients, the below information is applicable for primary care physicians (PCPs), ear-nose-throat doctors (ENTs), dentists, opthamologists, dermatologists, neurologists, and any other specialists that a Sjogren’s Syndrome patient may need.

A good rheumatologist can have a positive effect on your mood, in addition to being available to help with treatments and prescriptions. It’s great to know you have someone in your corner who is looking out for your best interests. My rheumatologist supports my alternative therapies as long as I can show some scientific validity, and he can back me up if I need a prescription that doesn’t interact with one of my treatments.

Conversely, a poor rheumatologist can really dampen your mood, creating frustration and even pushing you towards depression and they ignore your concerns and treat you like a number. The worst are doctors who assume that your symptoms are all in your head. I have had both, and I would never again settle for a bad doctor.

My advice for finding a good rheumatologist:

  • Talk to doctors and nurses that you trust. They tend to know who the good doctors are, even if they aren’t always supposed to recommend them (HMO systems). I’ve gotten good recommendations ‘under the table’ from some of my medical professionals.
  • Get feedback from patients. Online reviews can also be useful, though there is often not a lot of data available, especially for newer doctors.
  • If you are in an HMO and/or large private health system, consider a university research system or small private practice (insurance permitting). While there are good and bad doctors in both, HMOs tend to enforce quotas and time limits, leading to rushed care and stressed physicians. This was key for me, as my excellent 2nd rheumatologist had left the HMO system because he wanted to have the time and freedom to treat his patients like people.
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