Arthritis, Rheumatic, and Back Disease Association has been treating patients in South Jersey for 40 years. Noticing a trend that more of their patients are traveling from Mercer County, as well as a decline in the area of rheumatoid doctors due to retirement, ARBDA opened an additional location last year near Robert Wood Johnson Hospital on Klockner Road in Hamilton, joining locations in Voorhees, Moorestown and Sewell.
Dr. Neha Patel is currently the Hamilton office’s sole practitioner, and said she enjoys the township’s central location. Dr. Patel sees patients from Freehold to Bucks County in the new office. They are trying to get the word out about their new location, as Patel said many doctors don’t know ARBDA is in this area. ARBDA currently is open two days a week, but there are plans to increase hours, days and the number of doctors in Hamilton once the office gets busier.
Overall, ARBDA has 13 rheumatoid doctors, all of who are available to help patients at the four locations. Rheumatoid is a term to describe diseases of the joints. Many people are familiar with arthritis, but it also includes lessor known diseases such as lupus.
“There is someone who is always available because there are so many of us,” Dr. Patel said. “Patients are not left alone if they have questions or have emergencies.”
ARBDA’s founding physicians are still part of the practice.
“We have employees pushing 25 years or more,” said Brian Smith, a member of the ARBDA marketing department. “We have history and community in the region and function like a family. We don’t want to be a big business. We are about being a community. We want people to feel like a person, not a number or a widget. We are selective with who we bring into the practice. We interview for attitude, which drives the care we provide.”
However, Smith added ARBDA has the benefits that come with being one of the largest rheumatoid practices in the nation. Most practices have one to five physicians, while ARBDA wants to add on to the 13 doctors it has already.
“We are in a unique vantage point,” Smith said. “We have a national presence with rheumatoid groups and can develop best practices. Part of our growth goal is driven by the changes in healthcare. It is hard for small businesses to survive.”
Smith said many people need to see a rheumatoid doctor, but don’t know it. He cited the example of women over 55 who should be thinking about osteoporosis. While they might not know they need to be treated for it until they have a hip fracture, their goal—and the goal of a rheumatoid arthritis doctor—should be to provide care before something serious happens.
“We have fantastic clinicians,” Smith said. “They are great human beings, passionate about patients. Their perspective is looking at patients not as something to be monetized.”
Dr. Patel said the practice is growing.
“The patients are happy we are in the area,” she said. “Rheumatoid doctors are scarce in this area. Many are backed up three to four months out, or are nearing retirement. We can accommodate them. That will never be an issue with our office because our plan is to add days and doctors. Our wait time is the next day, or even the same day. We are trying to accommodate.”
Dr. Patel graduated with an advanced combined program for her undergraduate and medical degree from the Medical University of Lublin in Poland, and did her residency at New York Medical College. She received her fellowship in rheumatology from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York. Dr. Patel’s focus is in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
Arthritis, Rheumatic and Back Disease Associates is located at 2123 Klockner Road in Hamilton. Phone: (856) 424-5005. Web: arthritissj.com.