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Seven Red Flags When Looking For a Rheumatologist

7 Red Flags When Looking for a Rheumatologist

Sometimes in your life, you are referred to a rheumatologist, or you need to change your current physician. You either move to another city, or your rheumatologist leaves the town. Your rheumatologist doesn’t take your insurance anymore, or you need a second opinion. It is a big challenge to find a doctor with the expertise, the time, and the bedside manners who be accessible when you need him. 

How should you find that rheumatologist that will treat you and not only your disease? 

Here are the seven red flags that you should be aware of when choosing your rheumatologist

1. “The doctor has no reviews online”.

When patients receive a referral to a specialist, most patients have the diligence to research the doctor on google. So far, Google has proven to be an excellent resource for finding information about a doctor’s expertise and work history. In just a few minutes, you can see where the doctor was trained, how many publications in his field of expertise, if he/she was awarded for their work, and what previous patients say about their experience with that doctor. If you cannot find much about that physician, you should wonder, how is this possible? Many hospitals and clinics are encouraging patients to share their personal experiences. Many patients will leave a review to help other patients either have a great experience or to advise others to avoid that office. If you find a few reviews from patients, this is definitely a red flag.

2. “The doctor rushed me off the door”.

If you arrive at an office flooded with patients, you should expect a short time with the specialist. Unfortunately, there are not enough rheumatologists in the US. In the traditional medical system, physicians have many limitations in seeing patients. Some physicians will see you only if you are part of a hospital system or if they are contracted with your insurance. Many hospitals will push physicians to see up to 30 patients a day. In that case, of course, the time is limited. However, you should experience something else when you need a specialist. Your doctor should never rush you off the door. Your concerns should be heard and your questions should be answered in full. In our practice, we spend extensive time with patients and never rush them out the door.

3.”The doctor looks mostly at the computer and not at me”.

In the traditional system, a physician is incentivized to see more patients, document excessively, and place the proper coding to receive payment from insurance companies. Today, the time spent on documentation is three times more than that spent with a patient. That is why, in the traditional system, the physicians will focus more on documentation and spend less time paying attention to the patient. But there is another way of practicing medicine called direct care rheumatology. This is a way for the patients and the physician to rebuild trust and reconnect. The physician is not a slave of the insurance company and is working to serve you, develops a plan, spends time with you, and gives you his best medical opinion.

4.” The doctor did not return my calls”.

If you scan through the reviews of many patients, you will notice a common reason for dissatisfaction is that patients did not have their questions answered. In a traditional practice, the time you spend with a physician is between 7-15 minutes. Many of your questions will remain unanswered. When you have questions and make a phone call to your physician’s office, you will not only wait on the phone for hours, but even if you leave a question to the front office, it may take days to get an answer.

Why? Your message might never reach the physician, or the physician has too many tasks and patients to see, and they might forget. There is not enough staff to follow up on the patients phone calls or messages.  

 

5. “The cost of tests, imaging and treatments is hidden.”

When they go to a doctor’s office, many patients have absolutely no idea about the cost of their medical care. Let me ask you something: will you ever go to the best steakhouse in town, order the best bottle of wine and the most expensive steak if you know that you cannot afford it? When you enter a medical office without an emergency, you are most of the time asked to provide your insurance card before even they ask for your name. A stack of papers is pushed under your nose. A pen is handed to sign that you will be responsible for paying if your insurance decides they do not consider that you need the visit, the tests, or the treatment. Of course, you will sign! Your focus is on your health, not the papers you will sign….. Then, in a few months, you will start getting surprise bills. The financial burden could be massive. That is why I encourage you to ask for the cash price for your consultation, tests, and treatment. In our practice, Rheumatologist OnCall, we strive to offer affordable and transparent pricing for all our services, from consultations to the laboratory, imaging tests, and treatments. The cost of our laboratory and imaging services can be even ten times less discounted compared to traditional medical practices. We never send you a surprise bill and will work with patients to customize the medical plan to their needs and within their budget. We work to serve you and not your insurance.

 

6.” The doctor only offered me office treatments “.

Twenty or thirty years ago, when the first biologic treatments appeared, they were mostly given to patients via infusions, a medication given to patients via an intravenous line. You would have to be in a physician’s office under strict medical supervision during this treatment to receive an infusion. That means you will have to get a lot of time off from work at least once a month to receive treatment. On the other hand, the physician’s office can bill your insurance more for this procedure. These days, besides medications that are given through an infusion, there are many other options, like subcutaneous injections that can be self-administered in the comfort of your home and even pills that you can take daily.

You do not have to get time from work, travel to an office, and spend half of your day receiving treatment. Your physician should discuss all your options, and their incentive should be your well-being and comfort. Of course, some patients might benefit from infusions, but your physician should always offer you multiple treatment options. They should be your coach, not to dictate your choice. In our practice, Rheumatologist OnCall, we educate patients about their medical options. Together, we make the final decision about the need to treat. It is always a personalized approach that meets the patient’s needs. We treat people and not diseases. 

 

7. “The doctor does not listen to my concerns ”

When you get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease like Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis, you need time to process this new information. You may not be ready to jump on treatment in the first visit with your physician, but you may need more time to understand the risk and benefits of a treatment. Education and time with patients are essential. However, most physicians focus on the traditional therapies they are comfortable prescribing. 

But patients are unique. 

Their expectations are different. 

Some patients are looking for more than just a pill. They might be interested in addressing the root of their medical problem rather than treating the symptoms. Most patients seek a personalized approach that suits their needs and comfort level. Rheumatologist OnCall partnered with a specialized physical therapist to develop a complete exercise plan tailored to arthritis patients’ needs. Dr. Girnita has additional training in nutrition from Stanford University and mindfulness from the University of Massachusetts. She even designed a food and lifestyle pyramid to help her patients with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Conclusion

Finding the best rheumatologist near you might sometimes be challenging. Knowing these red flags will allow you to choose your next rheumatologist wisely. Dealing with an autoimmune disease is enough for many patients. Navigating the traditional healthcare system can create trauma for many patients. Suppose you need quick access to a top expert rheumatologist, an integrative and personalized approach that will always fit your needs, time and direct communication with a physician, affordable and transparent pricing. In that case, you are always welcome to check our practice, Rheumatologist OnCall. Remember to check our online reviews and see other patients’ experiences with us.

 

Author

Diana M. Girnita is a rheumatologist and founder and CEO Rheumatologist OnCall. She can also be reached on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube.

 

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