What is the best way to inform patients about their diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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With a potentially disabling disease such as RA, the act of informing the patient of the diagnosis takes on major importance. The goal is to satisfy the patient’s informational needs regarding the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment in appropriate detail. To understand the patient’s perspective, requests, and fears, the physician must employ careful questioning and empathic listening.

Telling patients more than they are intellectually or psychologically prepared to handle (a common practice) risks making the experience so intense as to trigger withdrawal. Conversely, failing to address issues of importance to the patient compromises the development of trust. The patient needs to know that the primary physician understands the situation and is available for support, advice, and therapy as the need arises. Encouraging the patient to ask questions helps to communicate interest and caring.

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