Get the best “bang for your buck” from medical treatment
Many of my previous articles have dealt with conditions, diseases, symptoms and causes as well as prevention. Few, however, have dealt much with the realities of healthcare, such as what you as a patient should, no must know before undergoing treatments.
Here is a brief list of what I consider to be extremely important questions that you have every right to ask. It is your personal responsibility to do so.
How your treatment is delivered, and most importantly the outcome of that treatment, can be impacted by many, many things.
The more aware you are of these “variables” the more control you can develop over your own care, and the more you will play an integral part in the decision-making process. It’s your body. Like I said, you have the right and the responsibility to be completely informed and to completely understand what your problem is and what you are facing in the way of remedies.
For generations, the notion of questioning your healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, midwife – you name it) was tantamount to blasphemy – something you never did. “My (provider) knows what he/she is doing, who am I to question him/her?” has been the prevailing sentiment for as long as I can remember.
My intent is not to suggest that you be skeptical or untrusting. A healthy dose of “personal investment” in your own health is critical so that whatever treatment you do receive, you fully understand all the positives and potential negatives of that treatment…as well as the ramifications of refusing treatment-which you have the right to do as well.
“I can’t question my (provider). It will anger him/her and may refuse me as a patient.”
• Not so. Proper inquiry, not meaningless and confrontational questioning, is typically welcomed by providers. It shows you care about what is being done to you and a sincere desire to cooperate and be a part of the treatment plan. If you meet with anger and/or rebuttal, you might want to rethink how you want your issue handled, and by whom.
“I trust my (provider) implicitly. There is no need to question his/her ability or training.”
• It is essential that you have complete faith and comfort with your provider, however “blind” faith accomplishes little.
I will tell you that any self-respecting healthcare provider worth his/her salt will not be offended by reasonable and legitimate inquiry into suggested treatments being offered to you…that’s the mark of an informed patient and one who takes his/her healthcare seriously.
Here are 10 questions you can ask your physician/surgeon/provider:
1. “How many of these procedures/treatments have you performed?” You have the right to know that your provider is well-trained in the proposed procedure/treatment
2. “Will this procedure/treatment be a cure, or do you anticipate further treatments/procedures?”
3. “How will you go about performing this procedure/treatment?”
4. “Are you capable of “fixing” all the problems you might encounter during my procedure/treatment?”
5. “What is your infection/revision rate for this procedure/treatment?” If you are seeing a non-physician health provider such as a nurse practitioner, physician assistant on a particular visit, you may ask;
6. “Will I be seeing the physician today? If not, at what point will I be seen by him/her?” If you want, or expect, to see the physician on a particular visit, make your wishes known and reschedule, if necessary, so you get that opportunity.
7. “Has the treatment/procedure planned been discussed with, and mutually agreed upon by, the physician?”
8. “Who will be helping you perform my procedure/treatment?”
9. “Will you be “teaching” during my procedure/treatment?” If you are having your procedure/treatment performed in an academic or “teaching” facility, expect that to be the case.
If you prefer not to be part of a teaching scenario, make your wishes known well beforehand so it can either be scheduled elsewhere or performed by someone who does not teach.
10. “What are your expectation regarding the results or outcome of my procedure/treatment?”
Now, let me say here that neither these questions, nor the article in general is meant to be an indictment against providers-physician or not. It is meant to stimulate your thought process, help you understand that you have the right, and equally the responsibility, to know and understand the full capability and limitations of those who perform procedures and treatments on your body, as well as to know and understand the success of these treatments/procedures, complications and intended results.
I’ve been in “the business” for almost 40 years and I’m never offended if a patient asks to be seen by his/her physician
Asking questions, getting educated and being informed – it’s kind of like voting – if you don’t do it, you can’t complain about the results.
Chisholm’s expertise in nursing, orthopedics and surgery spans more than 30 years. For more information on orthopedic-related topics, visit www.bone-and-joint-pain.com. Submit questions or comments to Ken at