Your role in treatment

Having a chronic disease such as psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis impacts how you interact with your doctor. Chronic diseases require you to become a partner in your own health care and an advocate for your health and well-being.

The work you do before the appointment can improve your experience. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your appointment with your doctor.

Before your appointment

Track your symptoms—Keeping track of your daily symptoms will give your dermatologist and/or rheumatologist a better idea of how your disease is progressing. Take notes on your flares: intensity, frequency, location, etc.

Have a clear goal—Know before you go what your specific reason is for the appointment. Do you have symptoms you need checked out? Is your current treatment not working and do you need to explore other options? If you know what you want the end result to be (a new prescription, a referral, advice, etc.), your time with the doctor will be well spent.

Make a list—If there is any information you don't want to forget to mention to your doctor, write it down. This can include:

  • Questions you have
  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • New medications or dietary supplements
  • Information from other health care providers you see
  • Treatments you are interested in

Making the appointment—There are things you can do when you make the appointment that will make things go smoother. If you can, get an appointment in the early morning or after lunch. These time slots can have shorter waiting times. Tell the receptionist if you think you will need longer time than a typical appointment. This is important if you have a lot of questions or symptoms you need to discuss with your doctor.

During your appointment

Your role doesn't stop when you arrive at the doctor's office. People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis need to be partners with their doctor when it comes to their care. Here are some ideas as to how you can be a good partner.

Be patient—The average patient waits 19 minutes for a scheduled appointment, according to the American Medical Association. That can seem like an eternity when you're ready to work with your doctor. Here are a few strategies to improve your waiting room experience:

  • Know what to expect: When you check in with the receptionist, ask if the doctor is running on time, ahead of time or behind schedule, and the approximate time you should expect to wait. If you have been waiting longer than 20 minutes, walk up to the reception desk and ask nicely how much longer you should expect to wait.
  • Practice diversion: Balance your checkbook, bring your own magazine or book, check items off your to-do list or bring portable headphones to listen to music. Do whatever you have to do so that the time will fly. How comfortable and relaxed you are in the waiting room will influence your experience in the exam room.

Be specific—Communicate clearly by describing symptoms as precisely as possible. For example, instead of saying, "My knee hurts," say "There is a sharp, piercing pain on the outside of my left knee, under the knee cap." Be specific about your symptoms in order to help your doctor narrow the list of possible diagnoses. It also may help prevent extra tests. Also, let your doctor know when the symptoms strike. Are they always there, or only during certain activities? This is when tracking your symptoms will come in handy.

Be prepared—This is where the lists you made before the appointment will be beneficial. If you are seeing a new doctor, be ready to describe your history and previous medications. Having notes about this will make it easier to remember all the details your doctor needs. If you tend to freeze in this situation, bring a trusted friend or family member who knows your condition and can speak for you.

Have your list of questions ready, and write down the doctor's responses. If you brought someone with you, you can have him or her take notes as you speak with the doctor. Work with your doctor to choose the best treatment for you, these questions will help.

Wear clothes that are easy to slip in and out of. Also, don't wear makeup. This will allow your doctor to get an accurate view of your skin.

Be honest—If you don't understand anything your doctor is saying, speak up. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't understand." If you aren't sure about a recommended treatment, ask questions. Also, if your doctor is recommending a treatment that you don't think is right for your lifestyle, let him or her know. It's okay to ask about other treatment options.

If you aren't using a treatment the way your doctor prescribed, tell him or her. This affects how well a treatment works for you. It may be hard to admit that you didn't follow "doctor's orders," but it's valuable information, especially if a treatment is not working.

After your appointment

Once the appointment ends, don't think you're off the hook! This is the time to follow your doctor's advice and continue to learn about your condition.

Treatment compliance—Once you and your doctor settle on a plan, follow through with it. It is good to give a new treatment eight to 12 weeks to see if it will work. Half of all patients do not adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by their doctors. However, using treatments properly can make a significant difference in how well they work. Sticking with a treatment takes time and commitment.

Make a new list—If you are on several medications, it can be difficult to keep all of the doctor's orders straight. Keep all of the directions in one place. Keep track of the various medications that you are on, when you need to take or apply them, and how you are reacting to the treatment. This will be helpful when you follow up with your doctor at your next appointment.

Communication—A good relationship with your doctor starts with honest communication. Get in touch with your doctor if your symptoms are worsening after starting a new treatment.