6 Tips for Finding a Rheumatologist to Treat RA

A guide for RA patients looking for a rheumatologist for the first time or looking for a new rheumatologist.

Medically reviewed in April 2022

Rheumatologists are healthcare providers that specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions and autoimmune diseases, including all types of arthritis. If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a rheumatologist is the type of healthcare provider you should see for treatment.

Below are some tips for RA patients who are looking for a rheumatologist for the first time, as well as tips for RA patients who are looking for a new rheumatologist to work with.

Ask your healthcare provider
If you are searching for your first rheumatologist, a good starting point is your primary care physician. For many patients their primary care physician is the first person with whom they’ve discussed RA symptoms, and your primary care physician will be an important part of your ongoing treatment for RA, including managing other conditions associated with RA. Ask your healthcare provider if they can refer you to a rheumatologist.

There are a number of reasons you may be looking for a new rheumatologist. It could be because of a move. It could be that your insurance plan has changed and your current rheumatologist is no longer in network. It could be that you want a second opinion because you are unsatisfied with your current treatment. In any case, if you are moving or changing insurance providers, you may want to ask your rheumatologist or primary care physician for a referral. If you are seeking a second opinion on their diagnosis and treatment, you may not feel comfortable asking your current rheumatologist for a referral, which is perfectly understandable.

Ask friends and relatives
If you have friends or relatives that you’re comfortable talking to about health and healthcare, ask if they know of any rheumatologists that they recommend. A recommendation from someone you know and trust can be very helpful when choosing a healthcare provider.

Start with insurance
Your insurance provider may also be a good place to start. Make a list of potential rheumatologists that are in network. As with seeing any specialist, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider to see what type of referral or pre-approval you need, and to find out what out-of-pocket expenses you will be responsible for.

Research and read reviews
Research rheumatologists in your area. Many offices, hospitals and healthcare facilities have websites with pages on the staff, and may be a way to find a rheumatologist who has experience with treating RA. You can also search for rheumatologists through organizations such as the American College of Rheumatology, which has a “Find a Rheumatologist” feature on their website. There are also a number of websites that have patient-written reviews of healthcare providers. It can be helpful to know what other patients have experienced.

Ask potential rheumatologists the right questions
When you find a rheumatologist you think might be a good fit, schedule a consultation appointment where you can ask questions, including their experience treating in RA. All rheumatologists should be knowledgeable about the condition, but because rheumatologists treat a wide variety of conditions, some may be more experienced treating a certain condition than others.

Organize a personal health record
Patients are encouraged to keep a personal health record (PHR)—a file that includes copies of test results, treatments, medications, diagnosis, physicians you’ve worked with in the past, family history and other pertinent health information. Keeping a PHR is recommended for everyone, but especially patients with any ongoing medical condition, including rheumatoid arthritis. Having a PHR makes things much easier anytime you must work with a new healthcare provider.

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