This study is evaluated what patients with rheumatic disease perceive as important in their medical encounters. We interviewed two groups of patients: one with a well-defined inflammatory condition (rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or ankylosing spondylitis) (n = 12) and one with non-inflammatory widespread chronic pain such as fibromyalgia (n = 14). Both groups focused on their relationship to their doctor. Two central themes emerged as of importance: 'to be seen' and 'to be believed'. However, these themes had different connotations for the two groups. For the patients with inflammatory conditions, 'to be seen' implied being seen as an individual and not as a mere diagnosis, and 'to be believed' as far as pain and suffering were concerned. For patients with non-inflammatory chronic pain 'to be seen' and 'to be believed' primarily implied being able to obtain a useful somatic diagnosis. Practical implications of these findings are discussed.