Joint_Decis_4CCreakyJoints launched an interactive program in conjunction with Janssen Biotech, Inc. to help patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis become more present in their own care.

The fourth and final chat in the series, called “Right Track RA: Helpful Tips for Continued Success in the New Year,” featured Dr. Laurie Ferguson (a health psychologist), Dr. Rebecca Callis (a rheumatologist), and Liz Schultz (a rheumatology practice manager).

The discussion focused on four key topics: 1) Building/maintaining a two-way dialogue with your rheumatologist, 2) Working with your rheumatologist to set manageable goals, 3) Finding additional support when needed, and 4) Staying on the right track through 2015 and beyond.

For those who couldn’t attend, here are some highlights:

  • Come to appointments prepared – Appointments are an opportunity to share what is going on with you.

During the poll, 69% of people taking part in the chat said that they come prepared to their rheumatologist appointment, while the other 31% tended to hold back or follow their rheumatologist’s lead.

One helpful thing to do in this regard is to designate a notebook or journal and keep track of things that you think will be important for your rheumatologist to know at your next appointment.  Another helpful thing is to bring someone else with you to provide a clearer picture of how you are doing.

  • Eliminate any team members that don’t work for you – If someone on your medical team is not working for you, you reserve the right to look for someone else. This is never easy, but is essential if you want to have the best therapeutic relationship possible, not only with your rheumatologist, but with the rest of your medical team, as well.
  • “Third Date Rule” – Give a doctor a try. If you’re not sure you’re feeling it, try that doctor for three appointments, and if it’s still not working for you, walk away and find someone else.
  • Set goals – 25% of participants said they wanted to find an RA treatment that works for them, 6% said they would start keeping a symptom journal, 31% want to be more physically active, 6% said they would build a network for support, and 31% felt all four goals were important.
  • Keep a journal – For all of the previous reasons mentioned.
  • Be physically active – Do what works for you. The Arthritis Foundation has approved activities and classes geared towards people with arthritis.  Being active can help keep your joints from stiffening up.
  • Get emotional support – Utilize different modes of support from your life. 38% of participants went to friends and family for support, 0% went to their rheumatologist or other health care professional, 31% went to social media, 15% used advocacy groups, and 15% used other.

It’s interesting that no one in the chat went to their rheumatologist for emotional support.  Why do you think that is?  Do you think both patients and rheumatologists could do a better job of treating, not just the physical aspects of the disease, but the emotional aspects, as well?

  • Make use of patient assistance programs for medication – A variety of programs are available to assist in and subsidize the cost of various medications used to treat RA.
  • Staying on track – 1) Set realistic goals, 2) Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go according to plan, 3) Start slow/don’t overdo it, and 4) Take charge of your health.
  • Staying on track with your rheumatologist – Be compliant with your treatment plan, and if it’s not working, talk to your rheumatologist.

To me, this chat really felt like a summary of the key points from each of the other chats.

For more information or to get information on all of the chats, visit CreakyJoints JointDecisions.

* It is important to note that these chats are not a substitute for medical advice. Always talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your treatment regimen.