by Theodore R. Fields, M.D.
Q. I am looking for a good rheumatologist. Can you help?
A. It’s always worth some research to try to find the specialist most suited to you. That’s especially true for rheumatologists since this will probably be a long-term relationship. Arthritis treatments are improving all the time, but we still can’t cure most types. So you’ll need to form a strong working partnership with your doctor.
OPTION ONE: ASK FOR REFERRALS.
Aside from friends and acquaintances, the best way to find any type of specialist is often through your primary-care provider. He or she regularly deals with a number of specialists and so may have a sense of who would be a good match for you.
If you’re moving to a new area, you can find a primary-care provider there first and ask that person for a recommendation. Alternately, your present rheumatologist may know of someone in the new area. Or you can contact the county’s medical society.
OPTION TWO: SEARCH THE INTERNET.
Many Internet options can help in your search.
- The American College of Rheumatology is a good place to start. Among other things, you’ll learn whether the doctor is a fellow of the organization, meaning he or she has completed an approved training program.
- Local hospitals often offer extensive physician biographies on their Web sites. These may list specific arthritic conditions in which the rheumatologists specialize, what their research interests are and where they were trained.
- In addition, most large hospitals maintain a physician referral service that takes calls and e-mails and can directly respond to your specific needs. (For example, you might ask about a doctor’s insurance participation or the waiting time for an appointment.)
NEXT STEP: CHECK DOCTOR CREDENTIALS.
Once you’re considering a particular rheumatologist, you can find a bit more information about that doctor online. Check board certification with the American Board of Medical Specialties or, for $12.95, get more details from HealthGrades. They also offer comparison reports on physicians in your area, if you want to use them to help find a doctor in the first place.
Hopefully, among all these sources, you can find a rheumatologist who is right for you. Remember that your partnership with your specialist is individual, and no single physician is right for everyone. If communication is not working, go back to the drawing board, mobilize the resources above, and find the doctor you want.
Board-certified rheumatologist THEODORE R. FIELDS, M.D., is director of the rheumatology faculty practice plan at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and an associate professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
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Last updated and/or approved: July 2010. Original article appeared in summer 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of May 2008. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.