HSS Early Arthritis Initiative

Early Arthritis Initiative Frequently Asked Questions

Who should utilize the Early Arthritis Initiative?

If you have joint pain of recent onset, you should be evaluated as soon as possible by the team working on our Early Arthritis Initiative.

What kind of symptoms could be evaluated by doctors at the Early Arthritis Initiative?

  • Joint pain for less than 3 to 6 months
  • Joint swelling or stiffness, particularly in the morning, for less than 3 to 6 months

Strong data shows that it is especially valuable for certain kinds of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, to be diagnosed and treated very early.

How long does it take to see a physician?

Once you have spoken with an Initiative coordinator and have provided the appropriate information, you should be able to see a doctor within a week if you have clues to early inflammatory arthritis.

Why should I see the doctor for a few aches and pains?

The earlier you identify the cause of your pain, the better you’ll be able to fight the disease or find out what’s going on. This is particularly true of rheumatoid arthritis, where early identification and treatment can actually stop the disease from progressing further. If you have morning stiffness or swelling of joints, this is an especially important signal that early evaluation is critical.

What happens when I am evaluated by the Early Arthritis Initiative?

A rheumatologist will see you initially to evaluate your joint pain and order appropriate diagnostic tests. A second visit allows the doctor to review any studies ordered and discuss your treatment plan. After your two visits, you will be referred for follow-up according to your individual needs. If you need ongoing care from a rheumatologist, you may choose to see the HSS Early Arthritis Initiative rheumatologist in his or her private office. Alternatively, you may be referred to a rheumatologist closer to home or one who participates in your insurance plan. The Early Arthritis Initiative will always work together with your primary doctor to make sure your early arthritis evaluation and recommendations are communicated to the physicians who will be involved with your ongoing care.

Can my primary care physician refer me to the Early Arthritis Initiative?

Absolutely! Although a referral from a physician is not a requirement to be seen by one of our rheumatologists (unless it is a requirement of your insurance plan), the Early Arthritis Initiative welcomes the early involvement of your primary care physician. The rheumatologist who provides your evaluation will be happy to send a summary of the consultation to your primary care provider.

Why did Hospital for Special Surgery start the Early Arthritis Initiative?

Hospital for Special Surgery is the largest rheumatology program in the United States, with 41 rheumatologists. Many spend most of their time taking care of patients, and some spend almost all their time in research. The Early Arthritis Initiative reflects the collaboration between these two physician groups at Hospital for Special Surgery.

The latest research has shown the critical importance of early treatment of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory types of joint pain. However, many rheumatologists have waiting lists that are months long and many patients are missing out on being seen as early as they should. The Early Arthritis Initiative is a way for HSS to focus its energies on getting patients treated early and properly.

The Early Arthritis Initiative is also involved in many support and education programs, including programs for patients with early or recently diagnosed inflammatory arthritis and patients with more established rheumatoid arthritis, and a variety of research endeavors.