Most people spend a lot of time researching and weighing options for a large purchase or a decision like changing a job.
Think about the last time you made a big purchase, say $1,000 or more. Did you go out and buy the first thing you saw? Take one recommendation from somebody? Or did you research it, learn some things, compare it to other options, and select something that was right for you? Most people tend to be educated and research large purchases like cars, televisions, or the newest cell phone.
So why do we so often fail to do this with healthcare?
So what can you do to become a more educated healthcare consumer? Ask questions to understand what your options are, what is being recommended, and why. Some good questions to start with are:
● What are the risks and benefits of this treatment?
When a treatment or procedure is recommended, the patient often assumes that it will make them "better." But what the patient expects and what the healthcare provider expects are often two different things. For example, a patient having back surgery expects to be pain free after surgery. The surgeon probably doesn't expect that to happen. A large study of 1450 patients in the Ohio worker's comp system showed that after 2 years 26% of patients who had surgery returned to work. Compare that to 67% of patients who didn't have surgery. There was also a 41% increase in the use of painkillers in the surgical group
● What other options do I have?
Never feel bad about asking about the alternatives to the treatment. We want you to be educated on your decision to have a particular treatment!
● What's it cost?
This last question is becoming more important as patients bear an increasing share of the cost of healthcare. Even if you don't have a high deductible plan or hefty co-pays, by being financially responsible today, you'll probably see smaller price increases in your premiums down the road. That back surgery that we've been talking about? It'll likely cost between $60,000 and $80,000. An educated consumer would learn that physical therapy is a viable alternative to surgery with comparable outcomes, much less risk and lower cost. In fact, a large study of 122,723 subjects showed that people with back pain who got physical therapy in the first 14 days lowered their healthcare costs by 60%.
At Family Physical Therapy, we pride ourselves in making patient education a priority! We want you to play an active role in your physical therapy plan of care! At our sister clinic, Next Level Performance and Sports Therapy , Kirsten Carmichael works hard to combine cutting-edge treatment techniques, patient education, and her specialized education in Sports and Concussion rehab to help athletes drive their care towards a return to their sport. Whether you are recovering from surgery, injury, concussion, or looking to improve your sport performance, we believe playing an active role in your own care will help improve your overall outcomes!
This article is adapted from The Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Founded in 1956, the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association champions the success of physical therapist-owned businesses. Our members are leaders and innovators in the health care system. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 85,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy nationwide. For more information, please visit www.ppsapta.org.