A large part of my work involves simply interviewing, and talking with, personal injury victims. One theme is clear in my interviews — People suffering a personal injury want to heal and return to their normal life. They want to recover. They are often worried they will not recover. Proper medical care is essential to recovery from serious injuries.
At our office, we spend a lot of time talking with hurting people. And, we spend a lot of time reading medical records. In many cases, communication issues between the doctor and patient delay or hinder medical treatment. In some cases, miscommunication issues get documented and become serious hurdles to medical treatment as well as any injury claims. We try to advise our clients throughout the process to help their treatment and recovery progress.
A recent research article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine deals with the issue of patient-physician communications. The article uses the phrase “patient-centered” medical care. That’s a good phrase. Medical care should be patient-centered. Yet, it is instead too often centered around the insurance company or the flow of the medical facility. According to the research in this article, physicians only elicit the patient’s problems and agenda in 36% of visits. The researchers actually concluded:
Clinicians seldom elicit the patient’s agenda; when they do, they interrupt patients sooner than previously reported. Physicians in specialty care elicited the patient’s agenda less often compared to physicians in primary care. Failure to elicit the patient’s agenda reduces the chance that clinicians will orient the priorities of a clinical encounter toward specific aspects that matter to each patient.
What does that mean? It means that some doctors fail to listen to patients. This can create many harms for you as the patient — Delayed care. Untreated injuries. Errors in documentation. These are all common. I don’t mean to criticize all physicians. I think we have some really skilled, patient-oriented doctors in Huntsville and our surrounding communities. We are fortunate here. Yet, the research does tell us that in some settings, physicians are not giving sufficient time to the patient for concerns. In many cases, I think this is a product of busy clinics with a huge volume of patients. Time is precious and most medical specialists are in great demand. So, they cannot devote large amounts of time simply talking with individual patients.
What should you do? Be aware that you may have very little time to talk with the doctor. Be aware that a few doctors may have preconceived notions about your injuries. Last year, I wrote an article titled Seeing A Doctor For Your Injury? Here Are Six Tips. This new research article only makes those tips more important. If you are injured and seeing a doctor, I recommend you read them. Those tips boil down to a few general principles:
- Be prepared for the visit.
- Be clear and friendly with the doctor.
- Be responsible for your own care.
Those are my shortened bullet points. If you are hurt, you won’t get many chances to speak with the doctor. You won’t get many chances to give the doctor a full and correct history of your accident. You won’t get many chances to tell the doctor your symptoms.
Your communications with the doctor start with the initial paperwork. Be clear in the paperwork about the accident itself and the injuries it caused or worsened. Don’t wait for the actual appointment to think about what you will say. Prepare ahead knowing you will only have a short time to discuss your accident, injury and treatment.
What do I mean about being responsible for your own care? In a car wreck or other personal injury case, make sure you get the referrals needed for your injuries. Make sure all your symptoms are addressed. In workers’ compensation injuries where the employer (or its insurer) gets to pick the doctor, do NOT let the insurer send a case nurse into the actual examination room with you. Too often, these case nurses try to control the conversation between the doctor and you. That is wrong.
Patient-centered medical care is essential to your rehabilitation and healing following an injury. Patient-centered medical care is essential to preventing biased or false information that can hinder your recovery in the present and hinder your claim against the responsible party in the future.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we specialize in Alabama personal injury cases. We believe in fully preparing each and every case. Many of these personal injury claims involve car accidents, commercial truck accidents and work-related accidents. We are happy to answer your questions. Consultations are always free and confidential.