If you have been diagnosed with psoriasis, a lifelong, chronic autoimmune disease, then the next step in your journey is to find a doctor best suited to your needs. It is important for psoriasis patients to develop a long-term patient-doctor relationship, and before doing so, individuals need to find that doctor. There are a number of factors that will help aid this decision, such as the demographics of your doctor, his or her credentials, and the cost of services.
Finding Your Doctor.
Those with psoriasis have the option of being treated by a primary provider, but professionals suggest that the best care and the most treatment options are with specialists, such as a dermatologist. If you are looking for moderate to severe psoriasis treatment options, then you should think about consulting with a dermatologist as they will be the ones who are more familiar (and confident) about prescribing treatments to help relieve symptoms of psoriasis.
There are a number of resources which help people diagnosed with psoriasis find a doctor that they can trust. For starters, talk to your general practitioner and ask for a referral.
Additionally, psoriasis patients can reach out to organizations, such as the National Psoriasis Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology. These organizations websites will let patients search for doctors based on the type of therapy they are looking for and the location that works best for them. You can also look at these organization’s insurance companies databases for the top providers.
Yet another place to look for psoriasis specialists is at medical schools. A vast majority of dermatologists will work at a university hospital with resident physicians hoping to become a dermatologist. That said, if you are looking to start treating psoriasis but you want to do so through a private doctor-patient relationship, avoid dermatologists at a university hospital. Just keep in mind that university hospitals tend to offer numerous treatment resources. For example, university hospitals are more likely to have an infusion center or a phototherapy center.
Set up a consultation.
Once you have found your ideal doctor, the next step is to set up a consultation where he or she can then find out more information about the doctor and the methods of treatment that they would prescribe to you. In order to feel like you have a say in the matter, it is crucial that a patient with psoriasis sets up a consultation.
Consults tend to be relatively short (roughly 15 minutes). As time is limited, make sure you do ample research and prep work beforehand. If, for example, the doctor’s office offers information about their services on their website, start seeking information there before moving on to other credible sources of information. In terms of prep work, try to write down any symptoms that you experience, patterns that occur when you are going through a flare-up, or anything that you have noticed triggers an outbreak.
Aside from that, patient should also write down any questions or concerns that they may have about their psoriasis treatment options. According to Kathleen Carter, Outreach Manager for the National Psoriasis Foundation, patients with psoriasis should ask their doctor questions like, how many patients with my specific psoriasis do you see in a month? Or, do you think that my symptoms could be managed and to what extent?
By asking these questions, you will gain more understanding of the doctor’s level of experience. Additionally, find a doctor who asks you questions as that shows that they are genuinely interested in what your condition and what they can do to improve your quality of life.
Ask questions about treatments.
Never stop asking questions. Patients with psoriasis should voice their questions and concerns both during the consult and in any following visits. Ask your doctor the following questions:
- “What kind of treatment options do you have available?”
- “Am I a good candidate for this treatment? How is that determined?”
- “What are the side effects of this treatment?”
Keep in mind that doctors are not able to make any guarantees about how successful the round of treatment will be for patients with psoriasis, but they can look at fact sheets. In fact, any doctor can go to the National Psoriasis Foundation and look at their list to see how effective different psoriasis treatments are.
Once you have your prescription.
After your chosen doctor gives you a prescription for psoriasis, you need to make sure that you ask questions which will help dictate how effective the treatment will be for you. Questions like, how long will I need to take this? Or, what are the risks if I don’t take my medication?
It’s important for a patient with psoriasis to learn the specifics about their treatment as this will help to put their mind at ease. If you fail to follow instructions, similar to when you stop taking your antibiotics before you are supposed to, then there will be consequences. For instance, if you are prescribed a topical treatment for your psoriasis on your elbow, but you use it for any patches that you have under your breast, side effects might occur. All in all, ask questions when getting a prescription.
Develop a patient-doctor relationship.
Being able to have open and honest conversations with your doctor goes a long way. Based on surveys conducted by the National Psoriasis Foundation, patients who are educated about their treatment and have a relationship with their doctor have better a better chance of success.
Additionally, one of the main reasons psoriasis patients need to develop a relationship with their healthcare provider is because this will help them know when it is time to switch medication.
To quote Kathleen Carter, “psoriasis has far-reaching effects on your overall quality of life, and it makes all the difference for your treatment plans and peace of mind to be working with doctors who you know you can call on when you need them.”
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