You must honestly discuss a specific, defined outcome with patients in your private practice.
How many times have you had patients come to your office after having a major health issue, a recent surgical procedure, or surviving chemotherapy—only to be burdened with one or all of the following:
- Pain that is unmanageable, despite medications.
- Loss of normal mobility, and inability to perform even basic daily functions.
- Disability, as well as the financial and emotional strain that results.
You cannot only feel their pain—you can feel their frustration.
They’ve been through so much already; they just don’t want to face any more medical problems.
They feel like they’re at the end of their rope.
So what do you do?
How do you help these patients the most? Where do you, the clinician, actually begin?
First Thing’s First – Talk About the Big Picture
After doing a very thorough patient intake—prior to treatment—you must honestly discuss a specific, defined outcome with both the patient and, if it’s their choice, their family. Make sure they understand what is and is not possible. Explain all the components of a proposed treatment plan. Determine what the patient wants to accomplish and design your treatment protocol by taking the patient’s intent into account. But be alert! If you start talking about adding exercise and diet and their eyes glaze over or they start looking around the treatment room at anything but you, you can be pretty sure either you have not effectively communicated why these are crucial. Maybe you’re looking at a potentially non-compliant patient. Make sure they’re as dedicated to their outcome as you before you ever talk finances or begin care.
Second – Address Any Underlying Metabolic Issues
Work with your patient’s other physicians and talk about any other underlying medical conditions they have. Eliminate all other possible causes as much as possible. Get a thorough history and physical. Chances are very good that they’ve been through a battery of tests with their regular treating physician. If that’s the case, simply ask for the results. If the results are current, you can save your patient a lot of time, money and frustration by not putting them through tests they’ve already had.
Next time, we’ll offer a few more tips for dealing with patients with multiple health issues who present in your private practice.
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