Good communication is essential in any healthcare setting in order to ensure that you receive optimal treatment without unnecessary delays. At Thorpes we understand how frustrating it can be if you are struggling with pain or are unable to return to a particular activity. The last thing you need is unnecessary delays in getting your problem resolved. In this blog I explore some of the most common areas of communication breakdown expressed by my patients from past encounters with other healthcare professionals and how we at Thorpes aim to eliminate these scenarios from happening in the first place – as the old adage goes “prevention is better than cure” – the same can be said for poor communication!
1) “I don’t feel I was listened to”
We have all been there, sitting anxiously in the treatment room giving our account of our symptoms whilst the practitioner is typing away furiously on their keyboard, avoiding any form of eye contact as if they were in another room. After a few moments we are handed a piece of paper, echoed a few words and guided to an open door.
Many things are wrong with this – unfortunately we hear this all the time. The reasons for this type of encounter may be numerous: limited appointment time, limited staff numbers, burnout, limited expertise etc. A rapport between therapist and patient is paramount in building trust and ensuring that 3 vital questions are answered: what is my problem? (diagnosis), what level of improvement can I expect to achieve and in how long? (prognosis) and what can be done about it? (treatment).
The Thorpes Approach – Here at Thorpes Physiotherapy we believe that listening intently to our patients is essential in helping us to understand your problem and provide you with the peace of mind that we have done just that. A large emphasis of our physiotherapy training is aimed at asking you targeted questions to obtain as much useful information as possible in a clear and concise way. Despite this, I have found from my experience over the years that instead of sticking to a stringent set of questions, letting my patient first open-up provides me with heaps more valuable information and helps you to feel at ease. At the end of the day, the symptoms are your experience and you are the historian conveying your experiences to me. I may treat several patients with the same condition in the same day, but no two patients are the same and therefore even if I am confident of your diagnosis, I need to understand how it is affecting you personally to provide tailored advice, treatment and exercises.
2) “There was no clear plan”
So you have been given a diagnosis and may have been told what to do about it .e.g. “you need to lose weight” or “you need to stop running”. The question is how do you go about losing weight? And is an ultimatum such as “you need to stop running” really that useful? Patients are often left uncertain of the next step in their treatment plan and unsure of what to expect. This ultimately reduces confidence and compliance in any programme such as taking a short course of medicine or completing a series exercises – this is not conducive to the patient or the therapist!
The Thorpes Approach – The physiotherapists at Thorpes Physiotherapy will work alongside you on every step of your journey as we provide our patients with a clear plan of action from day one including: a working diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. We also strive to have regular contact with our patients not only face-to-face but also via email and telephone to ensure that your programme is up-to-date and you have a clear plan of action set out to help you reach your goals as soon as possible.
3) Poor inter-communication between Healthcare Professionals
Last but by no means least, is the case of poor communication between different healthcare professionals. You may be have been awaiting a referral letter that never came or finally attended an appointment only to find that no correspondence has been provided to the practitioner you are about to see. I have even had patients asked by the practitioner they have been so longing to see “so why are you here?” – Rather frustrating when you have been waiting months to be seen! This disjointed communication leads to unnecessary delays in your treatment and in more serious cases, can negatively affect your treatment outcomes.
The Thorpes Approach – Over the years we have forged close networks with GP’s, Orthopaedic Practitioners, Podiatrists and Orthopaedic Surgeons. Alongside our private practice, we also have contracts with the NHS and are approved providers for all major health insurance companies. This allows us to ensure that there is smooth communication between us and your other healthcare practitioners. We regularly communicate with other allied health professionals and doctors for several reasons including: 1) to provide an overview of your physiotherapy treatment to date 2) to request further investigations such as a scan or referral to a consultant 3) to ask for a second opinion from your GP if we feel your condition is more of a medical problem rather than a musculoskeletal one.
So there you have it. Three common ways in which communication can break down in healthcare and how these situations can be easily avoided! I hope this has helped to put your mind at ease about what to expect from our team here at Thorpes Physiotherapy. If you are still unsure if Physiotherapy is going to help or if we are the right fit for you and want to talk it over with one of our expert physiotherapists, click here to arrange a FREE discovery call. A discovery call is a FREE 15 minute phone call between you and a physiotherapist to discuss your problem and ascertain whether we can help you at this time. Alternatively, give our reception team a call on: 01276 37670 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As ever, Thanks for reading!
Ashley Fowler BSc DipSOMM, MCSP, HCPC
Clinical Lead at Thorpes Physiotherapy