As a chiropractor, I often treat people who have already exhausted all of their insurance money from seeing other chiropractors and/or physical therapists. They come to me out-of-pocket and immediately expect me to do significantly more in one or two visits than the previous professional(s) did after the 12-20 visits that drained their insurance benefits.
I’ve routinely accepted the challenge and many times I’ve closed their case in 2-4 visits by having them listen to advice, advice that addresses underlying issues previously missed or ignored by other providers. Yes, I am a chiropractor and I will adjust and perform manual therapy as needed. But the difference maker time and time again has been the time focused on education directed at independence. Promoting independence on the patient’s behalf is a game changer. This is why I feel so strongly that empowering a patient should be the focus behind therapy and prescribed home programs. As patients discover how they are able to better themselves, their compliance becomes a non-issue and outcomes drastically improve.
The opportunity to educate others is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. As a provider, the methods utilized to accurately assess a patient’s condition and direct treatment must also serve to improve provider-patient education and accountability.
Gray Cook places this perspective into words very well:
“Our current medical and physical cultures are wasting a lot of time and not creating independence in our clients or our patients. Do we want them to be well and go tell others about their experience or do we want them to keep returning as continual consumers? At what point does wasting time conflict with an oath to do no harm?”Are you wasting your patient’s time?
One of the fundamental challenges within healthcare is that the human body is a complex adaptive system composed of several interacting parts that are continually changing in response to the stimulus from the environment. This complexity makes understanding the human body a difficult task. Unfortunately, some healthcare providers find reality too complex and would rather repeat the same routine evaluations and treatment over and over again to fit their own skill set rather than truly diagnosing a patient’s condition before administering treatment. This is where providers should question their principles. Are you doing the same thing over and over? Are you so ritualized that your care lacks individualized attention? Are you wasting your patient’s time because you keep missing their problem?
The very essence of what we do is problem solving. Before you can solve a problem, you first must identify what is relevant. On most patients, you can find any number of problems, but it is the relevant problems that are the key. To find relevant problems, you must have a reliable method. The foundation for any method is knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience that is rooted in understanding how basic science (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc.), pathology, assessment (orthopedics, technique, imaging, etc.), and treatment all integrate.
I’m continually shocked and disappointed when speaking with a new patient who has been told by previous providers that their symptoms “Don’t make sense.” When it comes to musculoskeletal (MS) care, everything makes sense. It may be extremely complex, but it makes sense. If something doesn’t make sense to you, then you don’t understand it well enough. Make changes. Take a more detailed history. Change your perspective. Perform a more detailed assessment. Expand your knowledge base. Do something different.
Never dismiss a patient as not making sense.
As a physical medicine provider, it is your job to have a knowledge base that is large enough to encompass the overwhelming majority of MS problems and conservative interventions. If you don’t, chances are you will suffer along with your patients because your knowledge base is not sufficient enough to diagnose their problems.
Diagnosis must have accuracy and completeness. It must include a pain generator and the relevant problems or dysfunctions. These must be put into context for the patient so they can understand how they came to be the way they are. This is critical as it provides the framework for the education and advice you provide your patient.
Ultimately, that very same framework serves to empower your patients to become more independent. The process is about transitioning them from dependence on you as the provider to an independent patient who truly understands their problem, how to go about fixing it, and the steps needed to prevent recurrent issues in the future.
I’m not trying to do anything in my work at Gallagher Performance that is unheard of, but it is still rather uncommon. For my conscience, I would rather create independence than be routine. I also feel that this conscience is growing among healthcare providers and that it is a mindset patients desire to see from their provider.
Promote independence. Your patients will thank you.
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