The Best Way to Find a Great Rheumatologist

Consult Rheumatologist for Early Diagnosis and Disease Management

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Throughout the many years I have been writing about arthritis, two questions have been asked over and over The questions arrive in my email or are posted on social media. The most frequently asked question, accompanied by a list of symptoms, is "Do I have arthritis?" It goes without saying that it's impossible to diagnose arthritis through email. The second most common question asks about recommending a rheumatologist in a particular city.

Again, that's beyond what I can do. But, I can help you find a great rheumatologist on your own. There are steps you need to take.

The Simplest Way to Find a Rheumatologist

You can always ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a rheumatologist. Some people may be comfortable with a referral from their primary or family doctor, but many people like to dig deeper and attempt to find "the best". 

You can also post a message on an arthritis forum or on social media asking for recommendations from patients. You must remember, though, that while that might get you the name of a rheumatologist, another person's experience may not necessarily be your experience. 

The Thorough Way to Find a Rheumatologist

First of all, go to the Geographic Member Directory on the American College of Rheumatology website.  The directory allows you to look up all of the rheumatologists in your area. You can search by state, then city.

Also, the directory is searchable for rheumatologists outside the U.S. You can obtain the contact information (phone and address) for those in your area. 

Now that you have contact information for rheumatologists in your area, there is more to do. There are numerous rating and review sites for doctors.

  Four of the most popular sites are Vitals.com, Healthgrades.com, UCompareHealthcare.com, and ratemds.com. An article in the Wall Street Journal indicated that many patients turn to the rate and review sites to learn about  doctors. Doctors are getting new patients based on good reviews. On the flip side, they can lose patients based on negative reviews. While doctors were inclined to ignore the rate and review sites at first, they have become increasingly aware that reviews may impact their practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Verywell Patient Empowerment Expert has written articles that were unfavorable about the usefulness of rate and review sites for the medical profession. Basically, she pointed out that the sites may contain misinformation, but she also wrote about how we can garner information from review sites and use them to our advantage. 

I think the rate and review sites are most helpful if you use several of them and compare results. Be mindful that some negative comments may be written by disgruntled patients, for reasons that will remain unknown to you.

Try to zero in on what seem to be genuine comments and those that offer specifics. Consider rate and review sites to be one tool to help you find a great rheumatologist. You still will need to meet the rheumatologist, determine if you like his "bedside manner", agree on a treatment plan, and determine if you have found someone you can trust.

You may wish to check on a specific rheumatologist's credentials with the state medical board and also check if there have been any malpractice cases. The Washington Post has a great article about checking up on your doctor.   

Once you have pared down the list and settled on a rheumatologist you would like to meet, call their office and ask when the next available appointment is for a new patient. A long wait could put you off instantly or it might suggest that rheumatologist is popular for good reason. These are decisions that only you can make.

Bottom line: Gather as much information as you can before choosing a rheumatologist, with the understanding that the information you find may be imperfect. Still, it's more helpful than when we only had the yellow pages. I picked a doctor out of the phone book many years ago. It was a complete disaster. I have also used the rate and review sites online with much success.

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