Updated: Sep 28, 2021
Far too often, patients trickle through the healthcare system receiving advice, recommendations, instructions, and services without truly understanding the what and why. As a healthcare provider, I was able to see this phenomenon in every facet of healthcare, not just physical therapy. I can recall spending the first rehab session after surgery with patients explaining what was operated on, the function of the tissues, the home modifications needed, the prognosis, the rehab expectation, and much more. I personally believe the uncertainty regarding what follows surgery affects patients' recovery. I believe when patients have more questions coming out of an elective procedure than when they did going in, more reservations and apprehension would impact the recovery phase.
In an effort to address this issue, I would meet with patients prior to their surgery to discuss expectations, answer questions within my scope of practice, help him/her create a home plan to consider movement impairments, and discuss with family members ways to assist on the journey to recovery. It was a hit. Patients had the opportunity to actually think ahead, make provisions, conjure up new questions, and receive tips/tricks. This gave the patients an overall feeling that they had some input and control in their care.
During the Self Care Sunday Live @ 5 Session on 10/18/2020, I provided you with the following tools you can use to be a more active participant in your healthcare:
1. Prepare questions for you and/or your family member.
Once you're called to the back and the doctor or other healthcare provider enters the room, you may get nervous, scared, or simply forget what you wanted to ask. Preparing questions ahead of time can help you be sure you get the information you want and need. This is the perfect opportunity to gain clarity about your case or family member's diagnosis. Even if you read information you've googled, take those questions to your doctor to gain clarity and for him/her to breakdown the information you gathered from your search.
2. Don't be afraid to speak up when you're not sure or don't understand
Healthcare jargon is a foreign language to those who didn't study in the field. Even those in the field need help breaking down medical talk sometimes. Many people leave their medical appointments unsure of what was discussed. The provider may have said a lot, but little was understood. Don't be afraid to speak up. A simple "hey, I'm having a difficult time processing this information" or "hey, can you write down things I can look up to gather more information about what we're discussing". It's ok to question healthcare providers. We're service professionals and our duty is to help the people. You are the people.
3. Consult with Other Healthcare Providers
I truly believe that consultations are undervalued. If you know your case requires visits with other healthcare professionals, consult with them. Call these providers and ask questions about their history with your condition, what to expect during your course of treatment, their outlook on your case, and what you can do to improve your condition.
The quality of the services we provide is in the quality of the questions asked. We need questions, comments, and feedback to provide better service. If there aren't any questions, we assume we're doing fine and there is general understanding. If you're passive and looking for a savior in the healthcare field--- I'm sorry to tell you that you'll be let down. Passivity isn't the answer, accountability is-- for the patient and the provider.
You're the captain of your healthcare team-- don't forget that.
And this my friend is.... free game.