Prep for Success: How to get the most out of your time with a health care practitioner
We all know it can be easy to feel like you are getting lost in the health care system. I work in health care and I even feel like I've been lost, so I know it isn't easy to navigate. The health care industry is BUSY! Limited time, resources and budgets can make it hard to see that those who work in health care are doing their very best to serve every patient to the best of their abilities. Today, I thought I would give a few tips so that you can make the most of your appointments and ensure you are getting the most out of your time spent with a health care practitioner.
1. Know Your Why
Before your appointment make sure you know WHY you are going to see a particular practitioner and how they may be able to help. Knowing your purpose will help you get down to business once in the appointment. Most health care practitioners have a finite amount of time to spend with their patients so being clear with your purpose well help you maximize your time and theirs! I once had a patient come in complaining of dry eyes and, after a minute of discussion, I had to kindly remind her that I was a physiotherapist not an optometrist :)
At the same time, it is also important to think about your goals. Not only goals of the initial appointment (what do you want to leave understanding or having accomplished?) but also, long term goals. This will help to make any assessment and treatment more specific and meaningful to you.
Side note: If I had a dime for everytime someone responded "to be pain free" when asked about their goals-I tell ya! Yes, being pain free is a goal but really think about the concept of SMART goals- specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time based. Is pain-free realistic for everyone in every case? No, not really. Think about your specific case and limitations that may exist. Someone with a 10-year versus a 3-day history of low back pain has a very different prognosis. Put a bit of time in and think about your specific goals before you arrive. Example: I want to participate in my 2-hour rec volleyball league within the next 8 weeks. Now that sounds like something we can tackle!
2. Know Yourself
Giving your practitioner a good health history can be a game changer! A clinical picture is created through a clinician's knowledge, their clinical experience and your reported history. The more clues you are able to give, the more likely the puzzle will come together quickly and clearly. One of my mentors always jokes that 'if you listen long enough, the patient will tell you what is wrong' and it is so true! Don't underestimate the importance of what you tell us! We don't need a full autobiography but jot down the following things so that when asked, you have all the details.
- Medications- Name, dosage and why you take it
- Other medical conditions you have been diagnosed with including any mental health, genetic or congential conditions.
- Past injuries or surgeries- yes, even c-sections count here!
- Family history- Think about conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis
3. Write Down your Questions
It's ok not to know everything! Actually, it is totally NORMAL not to know everything. A simple way to keep from feeling overwhlemed is to write down a few questions you may have before your appointment. Health care issues can be scary and daunting so having some key questions answered can be a real comfort. Having them written down will ensure you don't forget anything and have you leaving the appointment feeling empowered. Which brings me to my next point...
4. Say No to Dr. Google
As much as it is totally tempting these days, try to avoid the 'ole self diagnosis. Not only can this significantly increase your stress but often times Doc Goog misses key details that a health care practitoner won't. Go into your appointments with an open mind and trust that your health care practitioner's extensive education and human brain will be your best bet. I am more than comfortable having people look into things once we have discussed their condition or injury but always warn that every person and every issue is VERY unique and the internet cannot account for each case. We also cannot account for the accuracy and validity of the information.
5. Dress for Success
Make sure that when you are going to see a pracitioner you wear something that makes it quick and easy for them to assess the area. If you are dealing with a lower body issue- bring shorts, your regular footwear and any orthotic and braces you may use. For upper body, I always recommend women wear a tank top/sports bra and those with long hair have it pulled back in a ponytail. This can be SO helpful when putting together a clinical picture!
Do not underestimate the power of the therapeutic relationship you have with your health care providers. If you don't feel like a practitioner is right for you then it is important to discuss this with them and/or your referral source. I never have a problem referring patients to practitioners that I feel would better suit their needs! So shop around, get second opinions and trust your instincts- no one knows your body better than you!
Have a happy and healthy week my friends,