“Don’t be the patient that says: ‘Doc, just tell me what to do …’ Instead, you should ask for information to empower yourself to make decisions about your healing process. Framing questions around the clinician’s experience is always a good starting point; pretend to be the doctor for just a moment and consider the difference in how you might answer the following questions:
- ‘Is there something wrong with the X-rays of my spine?’
- ‘In your experience with patients like me, do most people get back to all normal activities following being rear-ended in an accident with findings on an X-ray like this?’
The first question does not give the clinician an opportunity to see you as an individual and truly help you on your path forward. Instead, it sets up a situation where the doctor is free to look at the X-ray in a general way and give a vague and simple answer. She might say: ‘No, everything looks fine,’ even though your back still hurts, or ‘… Well, I see you have some scoliosis here,’ without giving you any actionable steps to take moving forward. If you keep the focus on the experience of the clinician from their work treating a large number of other individuals with similar patterns of findings, it encourages both of you to keep the bigger picture in mind. But David, you might be thinking, what’s wrong with being told the findings of some specific test or measure? Simple, it’s because one specific test or measure rarely tells the full story. Imaging, for example, is just an illustration of shadows that lay beneath the skin, and has limited capability to depict underlying issues, especially when it comes to a holistic view of the body. In fact, there are specific cases when performing imaging is required by insurance before they are willing to reimburse the clinician for certain procedures to be performed. Unfortunately, this can skew their clinical decision-making. This is yet another reason why you must be the one in control, and work with people you trust.”
David Meyer is a physical therapist and author of Injured to Elite: A Guide To Empowering Yourself to Transform Your Life After Injury.
He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, “Don’t be the patient that says this.”
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