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patient showing a doctor a photo on their phone of a rash on their arm

How To Get The Most Out Of Doctor Appointments

Medical appointments seem simple enough: just book, show up, be seen, and follow up, right? Wrong! For many of us, patient care may as well be happening on the dark side of the moon. Our minds are full of questions and ambiguities rather than certainty or ease.

What should I bring? What should I say? How should I say it? What’s going to happen? Will anybody believe that I’m as sick as I say I am? Do I sound like I’m trying hard enough? What if I don’t lose enough weight in time? Should I downplay my pain to avoid a drug-seeking label?

Look for the right stuff

Any medical professionals in your life should believe in your future, not just that you’ll be alive, but that they can and should participate in maintaining or improving your life. This includes affirming the best possible quality of life for you through, healthy and responsive communication, an adequate care plan, and advocacy as required.

Signs that you’re in the right place

  • Your clinician listens with interest to what you have to say, and is prepared to answer questions.
  • The office staff treats you with respect and works to meet your needs.
  • You feel welcome.

The AS facts of life

Fact: Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic incurable illness.

Fact: This has a serious impact on quality of life.

Fact: Patients are worthy of proper medical care, treatments to halt or slow disease progression, pain management, physical therapy, and access to therapy to manage the toll that AS can take.

Find your spondylitis community

Just about every diagnosis has a community of advocates, activists, and educators working to improve the plight of their constituency. Our community is highly motivated and engaged to meet the needs of patients and their families, but they truly excel at telling our stories, sharing information, and supporting new patients. Only medical professionals can give definitive advice in your situation, but the community is a great way to identify helpful information and strategies to manage appointments.

Be ready to participate in your own care

There’s no perfect way to be an AS patient, but try to be ready to tell your story. Spelling, elegance, and vocabulary don’t amount to much. It’s the facts that count. You’re in the best position to describe your symptoms, if your treatment plan is working, and what your life is like. This can be achieved by making a list of symptoms, questions, and concerns in advance of your appointment. You might find an app, diary, or chart helpful for getting your thoughts organized. But if everything is terrible, so bad that you don’t know what to say or do, just say that. Be honest about how poorly things are going. And then ask for guidance on preparing for future appointments.

Shortcuts to a next level appointment game

  • Send in your questions in advance.
  • Take a copy with you, review it in the waiting room, and pick the most important one to lead with.
  • Snap selfies of rashes, swollen joints, anything that doesn’t look quite right.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Lawrence "Rick" Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    Make the doctor and staff laugh with you. Laughing is the surest sign that a place makes sense for me. Lack of laughter is a killer for me. No laughing, no Rick.

  • Jed Finley moderator
    2 months ago

    I’m probably the same way. I perform my standup (well, sit down) routine at doctor’s appointments. Very few find me very funny, but its still a good “straight man” character they play, so it kinda works out!

  • Lawrence "Rick" Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    if they dont laugh with me, I never go back. I call that the no laugh prejudice.

  • Lisa Marie Basile moderator
    2 months ago

    I love this! Thank you for the insight; I think the more we empower our fellow ASers, the more people can feel more autonomy over their own lives.

    I was DUMBSTRUCK when I went to my first doctor’s appointment, along with quite a few afterward. The doctor seemed disinterested and lacked a proactive quality. I knew I’d have to do my homework and show up prepared and knowledgable.

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