Managing Arthritis

Taking an Active Role in Your Treatment Planning

Two young women conversing

Before an appointment

Being prepared is key to the success of any appointment. Here are some steps to make sure you’re ready.

Review Roles 

You may want to start by reviewing the exact role of the treatment team member you'll be seeing, this will help you focus your questions.

Prepare Yourself

There can be a lot of things to remember when getting ready for an appointment. Our printable Healthcare Appointment Checklist can help ensure that everyone has all the information they need to understand your condition and to make the best decisions for your treatment plan.

Things to Consider

Keeping all your healthcare information in one place can help you stay on top of things. Consider using a folder, binder or notebook to keep everything together.

Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the questions you've had since your last appointment, so keep a running list of questions as they arise.

Make sure to have a pen and paper, or your smartphone, handy to take notes, or ask the person accompanying you to be the notetaker. You could also ask permission to record the conversation.

Track Your Symptoms

It’s often hard to get a good sense of how you’re doing over a period of time. Our printable Daily Symptom Tracker is a helpful tool. Keeping track will help you effectively communicate the impact of your symptoms and understand what contributes to making them worse or better.  Once you’re familiar with the tracker it will only take a minute or two to fill out each day.  

Start the process of tracking your symptoms well in advance of your appointment — two weeks in advance, if you can. Or better yet, make a habit of keeping track every day. This can give you and your treatment team a better long-term perspective on how your symptoms may change over time. Before your appointment, review your sheets and identify any trends to share with your healthcare professional.

Consider the Conversation

A list of questions, daily symptom tracking sheets, goal tracker and appointment checklist are helpful tools to prepare for a conversation with your healthcare provider. 

While it's important that you are ready to provide as much detail as you can, we all know that appointments can be short and healthcare professionals have limited time to listen.

Review your materials and determine the most important issues. Try to sum them up in 30 seconds or less. This 30-second overview isn't everything you're going to address, but it can help determine the direction of your appointment.

Some questions to consider

Whether it's your first or fifteenth appointment, here are some questions to consider asking your healthcare professional. Review these questions and use them when necessary.

  • What did the test result show?
  • When should I expect to notice improvement from my current treatment?
  • If my current treatment doesn’t work, what are my options?
  • In addition to my prescribed medications, what should I be doing to help manage my arthritis?
  • What does my future hold?

Adapted from Six Questions Arthritis Patients Must Ask Their Doctor

Remember that each member of your treatment team is unique and has their own communication style; mutual respect will help you to be a more effective self-advocate.

During your appointment

Give the full story

When you are asked a question like “When did the pain start?”, don’t just say “a month ago.” Add that previously, you were feeling fine and able to be quite active, but now you can barely move, let alone exercise. Describe whether there was a trigger that led to the pain — were you working long hours? Exercising? Lifting something heavy?

Be honest

If there is some aspect of your treatment plan that you think will be hard for you to follow or that you're uncomfortable with, explain this to your treatment team member. They may be able to suggest other options. Never stop a treatment before discussing it with your treatment team member.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

Tell your treatment team member what's on your mind, even when it is difficult or embarrassing. This can be challenging, but the more your team members know, the more they can help you.

Know your options

Ask for all possible treatment options. It is rare for there to be just one. By simply asking, you are reminding your treatment team to tailor treatment to your specific goals, needs and circumstances. You may want to know how different medications will be administered, for example, whether by self-injection or as a pill, and how frequently they must be taken. Some medications might not be right for you depending on other health issues you may have or other medications you are taking.

Check to make sure you understand

Make sure you understand everything your treatment team member has said. If you’re not sure, repeat back what they told you and ask them to confirm if you’ve understood correctly.  You can also ask your treatment team member to repeat the information, write it down or draw a diagram.

Partner with your treatment team

Let the members of your treatment team know that it’s important for you to be part of your treatment decision-making. Emphasize that you respect their expertise, but you want to understand their thinking when making recommendations. You know your body best. Let them know your expectations about treatment planning so they can clearly communicate what is possible.

After your appointment

Your treatment team members keep records and you should too. Make sure to keep track of the following information. Use our printable Post-Appointment Record after each appointment to keep track of important information.