Today’s guest blog comes to us from Grace C. Wright, MD, PhD. Dr. Wright is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and Attending Rheumatologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, New York. She serves as a medical advisor to Lilly and is the founder and president of the Association of Women in Rheumatology.
Patients with Arthritis often face many uphill struggles, such as creating work-life balance while managing a chronic illness or parenting with the disease. Discovering simple, accessible ways to communicate with their doctor should not be one of them.
Today, we have more access to medical information and, as a result, there is an increase in the shared responsibility that many patients now experience in managing their health. Common expectations include better understanding medications and the associated side effects, drug-drug interactions and the effects on personal wellbeing. Despite this, many patients experience a disconnect with their healthcare provider and find it difficult to convey their personal concerns and treatment expectations.
In a recent article, Patient Expectations and Perceptions of Goal-setting Strategies for Disease Management in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Dr. Strand et al. highlight the issue that "patients with RA feel unable to communicate their disease burden and treatment goals, which are critically important to them, to their healthcare provider." Rheumatoid Arthritis was consistently noted to have a strong negative impact on many aspects of patients' lives and well-being, but setting and communicating their goals of being pain-free and fatigue-free was often difficult.
Patients and physicians may have very different ideas of "being well" and "being ill." The American College of Rheumatology has outlined recommendations for managing diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis by "treating to target," in an effort to achieve improved disease control and physical function. This level of treatment is best achieved through a shared decision process in which patients and physicians communicate and set treatment goals and expectations.
As a physician, it is important that I listen to and understand the concerns and expectations of treatment communicated by my patients. Equally important to achieving our shared goal of making them stronger and healthier, however, is that my patients' communicate their fears and concerns. Together we can make a difference and achieve mutually defined targets. The journey of arthritis is often a lifelong process. Finding partnerships in health and wellness are an essential part of creating success stories and achieving meaningful goals.
Together, we can.