Dear Motionworks Family,
The month of June is usually a beauty in Wisconsin; however, the weather as of late has left farmers and everyone else scratching their heads. Luckily by Sunday summer should make an appearance, and hopefully we can all salvage what is left of our fleeting summertime.
Speaking of salvaging, healthcare these days is quite the challenge for both healthcare providers and patients. Whether changes in employment requires a change in insurance or your providers have left their practices, more people are having to find new healthcare providers for everything from primary care, internal medicine, pediatricians, and Urgent Care options to specialists of every kind. And what if you are forced to find a new provider, because your current one just isn’t working out? Rest assured it is highly commonplace, and it is very important to find a regular provider you feel comfortable with BEFORE facing a serious health problem. You want to be confident in the advice you are given and that your primary physician has your back when you require an on-going medication or referrals to other providers such as physical therapy.
This month, we have a full array of articles intended to help you improve your healthcare experience. Patient-centered care is not all that new to medicine; however, it is difficult to find providers who can actually devlier a truly patient-centered care experience. What is it? It is allowing you the patient to have an active say in your care decisions based on your values and wishes, to the extent you want to have a say. If you are younger and well-versed in medical terminology, you might have an excellent understanding of your condition and treatment options, so you may desire your head in the circle of the physicians developing your care plan. If you are a bit older and have had limited healthcare needs, you may desire to trust the recommendations of your physician care team when it comes to determining appropriate treatment for a medical problem. Either way, with patient-centered care, you will feel secure and respected every step of the way.
What types of decisions can involve patient-centered care? Every decision, from choosing providers for which you would like a referral, choosing a new current healthcare provider, and making decisions when the choices are not black and white. For example, would you prefer a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, or MD or DO to be your primary care provider that you typically see? Would you like to try physical therapy prior to surgery? Would you like a PICC line or a central line? Would you like aggressive medicine or lower key medicine, acknowledging the pros and cons of each? Would you like palliative care or an aggressive cure? Would you like an elective procedure now or in the future?
Taking an active role in your healthcare does require a lot of education about your condition, as well as a working knowledge of your own personal medical history. It will likely require you to request your own medical records, so you know your lab and other test results that will be critical for educated decision-making. It also means asking the questions you don’t know, that only experience can tell you, like how many patients do well with this treatment direction versus another treatment direction. It may seem like a lot to take on, but realize that you are in control in patient-centered care. If you feel overwhelmed or have any questions along the way, your medical team will help you make a good decision tailored to you and your family’s needs. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone, but rather you are always the one deciding how much input you would like when you arrive at each decision-point or change in medical status when decisions need to be made.
My hope is that this month’s articles help you decide how to best approach healthcare on your own behalf. Patient-centered care approaches have many benefits, including improved medical treatment outcomes, decreased costs, and increased satisfaction for both patients and healthcare providers. Please share the article on patient-centered care included in this month's newsletter with your physician(s) to begin a conversation on what role you would like to have when healthcare decisions come your way. Again, don’t wait for a big issue to arise before having this conversation, because you may discover your physician is resistant to this type of change in the doctor-patient relationship and is unwilling to provide this type of care. This just may mean it is time to move on and find a healthcare provider who does support you having your say in your own care. Then again, you may be pleasantly surprised that your physician already believes in delivering this kind of care and that you are already on the same page.
Finally, while I did not include a specific article on this topic, women have the biggest need to speak up on their own behalf when accessing care. Numerous research studies have found that women can take years to receive a new medical diagnosis while male counterparts are diagnosed and treated within months. This is especially true for cardiac issues, whether emergency, life-threatening cardiac events, or more long term issues like heart failure, arrhythmias, nervous system, and congenital issues. Don’t let any provider downplay your symptoms when you know something serious is happening. Demand a second opinion or testing to be sure all is well. Women know their bodies well, and their cardiac and stroke symptoms tend to present differently at times than men, making it harder for providers to recognize. Sometimes being a younger age, whether male or female, also reduces the odds of an accurate and timely diagnosis for a medical problem, such as arrhythmias being mis-diagnosed as anxiety or panic attacks. Advocate for yourself, and encourage your family members to do the same, so you can get the help that you need.
Because of the changes in healthcare policy that are likely to come to fix our broken healthcare system, becoming your own healthcare advocate has never been more critical. Not only will you get appropriate care faster, you will be saving money by getting the correct treatment right away which will reduce the need for extra visits to the ER, Urgent Care, and other specialists. If you are not comfortable with being your own advocate, recruit a friend or family member to help. Trust me, healthcare can be very scary due to frequent, critical medical mistakes- you will want someone with a medical background to accompany you to appointments and to any hospitalizations, especially if you facing a big medical diagnosis!
Take advantage of the benefits of patient-centered care and take charge of your own health as you enjoy our wonderful Wisconsin summer!
Dr. Jill Murphy
MotionWorks Physical Therapy