At the Ramsay Law Firm, P.A., our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers have over 60 years of combined experience representing injured workers in North Carolina. Through countless conversations with our clients and medical professionals, we have learned the best way to talk to doctors about injuries, so our clients can get the treatment they deserve.
Here are a few tips to the get most from your doctor visits.
Remember: Medicine is a Science
Doctors are scientists. That means they work more efficiently when they have specific information.
At their core, doctors are medical experts who must gather information about their science experiment from the test subject: That means you. They are continually testing the success of known medical procedures against your results. When your doctor asks how you are doing, they want to know specifically about how you have been physically doing since your last visit.
What results have you observed or documented about the change in your physical condition because of their treatment recommendations?
To provide this important information, keep a list of your symptoms, track your pain levels, and watch for improvements, or changes due to your treatment. Help your doctor by being a good record keeper, including a calendar of your symptoms.
Personal Stories are Not Important to Your Treatment Plan
Don’t tell the doctor a long story to explain your pain. The more efficient you are, the more help your physician will be. Instead of describing how beautiful your lawn used to look, but since your injury, you have had to enlist help from a neighbor — who is friends with your nephew, and you went to school with his mom all those years ago, and her husband used to date your sister, so it’s weird when everyone is in the same room — simply say, “Mowing the lawn increases my pain.” Long stories hinder your care and sidetrack the doctor from gathering scientific evidence about your medical condition.
You also do not have to convince your doctor that other people know you are hurt and agree that even everyday chores are harder. If you are having trouble getting in and out of the shower, and need help from your partner, say so. You do not have to say, “Ask my spouse! He/she must help me! Now he/she is late for work almost every day. Just ask them!” Simply say, “my spouse must help me with my bath.”
We understand stories are a very common way of communicating with friends and family, and that it feels good to tell a story. However, they are a terrible way to efficiently give scientific information. Your doctor will only have the patience to listen to one story. Make it count.
The Clock is Always Ticking: Hit The Most Important Issues First
You have 30 seconds to describe your current condition and report how the last treatment that was prescribed changed your symptoms. GO! Can you do it off the top of your head? Unlikely.
Practice saying your list of most important complaints out loud. Say it in the car on the way to the visit. Write it out if you need to. It might sound like this: Doctor: “How are you doing?” Remember this is code for: “What scientific evidence can you report about how my treatment is working?”
An inefficient answer is: “Oh, good morning. I’m doing good. We tried a new place for breakfast today. Have you tried it? Really good. I must eat before I take the pills you gave me, and even then, they still really upset my stomach, so I must stay close to the bathroom. Also, the splint you gave me is hard to use, my spouse couldn’t even help. Ask them. They think it’s broken, and I don’t know, it’s weird. But really the biggest issue is that my swelling seems to be getting worse. I mean, look at my leg! Have you ever seen anything like it?”
Efficient answer: “Good to see you, doctor. My biggest concern is the swelling seems much worse. I had trouble getting the splint on the right way, and the medication you gave me causes diarrhea and severe stomach cramps. My pain isn’t as bad as the last visit, but I still have pain, especially when standing or walking long distances. Ice and elevation seem to help the most.”
Put your most serious concern FIRST on your list.
Doctors are rewarded for being efficient information collectors. They have many other patients and tasks. They need to move through their mental checklist to make the best decision about what to do next. If you can be efficient, YOU WILL GET BETTER CARE.
This is true for explaining your pain, your mobility challenges, and any medication or medical devices, like slings or splints, too. Remember, your doctor is gathering scientific evidence.
Ask yourself questions that will help you obtain the best treatment before you get to the doctor’s office.
- Did the medication take away the pain during the day, but it comes back at night?
- Did the treatment reduce the swelling but not the pain?
- Did the injection give half a day of relief from pain? Or a week of 20% relief.
- Did physical therapy improve your pain while you were, but after a week made you worse?
Your doctor needs this information to modify your treatment plan, so they are implementing and revising a medical strategy that works for your specific needs. These details are important. If anything works, even a little bit, even for a short period, let your doctor know.
If you are tired and frustrated with your recovery efforts, it is okay to say so. “Doctor, it feels like I can’t get better even though I know we are both trying to get me there. I’m discouraged and sad.” These are real pain points that will allow your physician to update your treatment, so you can get the help you need. Remember, your doctors cannot read your mind. Give them the specific information they need to do their jobs.
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