What makes a visit to your child’s doctor a good or a bad one? A lot may depend on the news about your child’s arthritis and how well treatment is going. However, multiple studies have found that how well patients communicate with their doctors can have a lot to do with their satisfaction.

Good communication between doctor and patient can also influence how well patients keep up with treatment, ultimately improving health. That’s why it's so important to make sure you, your child and your child’s doctor understand one another when it comes to your child’s treatment plan. And, good communication isn’t just about talking.

A Team Approach

When 12-year-old Cynthia Kane from Arlington, Va., goes to her pediatric rheumatologist appointments, she always brings her color-coded chart that shows at a glance the medications and amounts she takes each day, her lab test results and dietary changes. Her mother, Minneh, carries a little notebook for taking notes during the visit. She also uses it to record questions she and her daughter want to ask.

Cynthia and her mother epitomize the ideal in today’s team approach to the doctor–patient relationship. Everyone takes a role in improving the child’s health. The aim is for the child, parent and doctor to be “on the same page with the treatment plan, with any parameters around what the child can and cannot do, and even with how the child is coping with the disease,” says Laura Robbins, DSW, vice president for education and academic affairs at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

Making the Most of Office Visits

Making sure your doctor has all the information they need such as lab test results and X-rays is important to do before your child’s visit. Check to see if your child’s doctor’s office has received them or that you have them collected beforehand to take with you, especially if you’re a new patient.

“You don’t want to walk into an appointment saying, ‘Did you get them?’ You want to know the doctor has the results. And the only way to do that in many health care systems is to get them yourself,” says Patience White, MD, adult and pediatric rheumatologist and professor of medicine and pediatrics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

A lot happens in a short amount of time during appointments so writing down specifics in a notebook may help you or your child, depending upon their age, from forgetting anything. Studies have shown that 20 to 50 percent of what is said in the doctor’s office is forgotten.

You can also use your notebook to jot down any questions or concerns that occur between visits. Make sure you or your child lets the doctor know about concerns.

“A lot of kids don’t understand that there can be flexibility in some medical regimes,” says Deborah Rothman, MD, director of Pediatrics and Rheumatology at Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Mass. “If a particular medicine is really bothering you, there may be a substitute but if you don’t tell your doctor of the problem, he or she won’t be able to help.”