Imagine you walk into your doctor’s office; you are there because of some recent back pain. As you wait in the treatment room, you review a list of questions about your symptoms and possible treatment options you prepared prior to your visit, and are ready to come up with a game plan. The doctor walks in, greets you warmly, sits down, reviews your paperwork and says, “I see you have back pain. I know what we will do. Here is a prescription for medication, do the stretches on this sheet, and come back in two weeks. Have a wonderful day Mrs. Jones, you should feel better soon.” And with that, the doctor leaves.

The visit didn’t go as you had initially hoped or planned. The time was short and you still have your original list of questions unanswered. You also likely have additional questions resulting from the brief five-minute interaction.

What is this medication? Are there side effects? Do I do ALL these exercises? What if they hurt? Can I come back sooner? And the main question you had … what is wrong with my back?!?

While this may be a bit of an extreme case, this isn’t uncommon in all areas of healthcare. But why the rush to get patients in and out so quickly? In today’s healthcare environment, providers feel the pressure to do more in less time to combat a ravenous reimbursement landscape and ever-evolving healthcare system. The result? Patients feel frustrated and dissatisfied with their care because they do not feel like they have adequate (if any) input into the decisions that clinicians make about their health and their lives.

At Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy, we believe there is another way. We believe in putting the patient first and making sure your voice is heard in your care. Our Physical Therapists use a concept called Shared Decision Making as one of the pillars of our approach. Shared Decision Making allows the patient to be a part of his or her own healthcare team. Novel concept, right? Really, who knows you better than you? Yes, providers have schooling and increased medical knowledge, but that doesn’t mean we know how that knowledge best applies to you. To know that, we need to make sure we include you in the full care process, from intake to treatment to end of care. You should be the focus. Just as your finger print is specific and unique to you, so should your healthcare.

Using Shared Decision Making also allows you to get better faster, because the plan will be directed toward what works best and what is most important to you. It takes into consideration your personal values and beliefs, financial situation, lifestyle, schedule, and other factors that may affect your care. Just because you have low back pain does not mean it can be treated the same way as the last 20 people your doctor saw with low back pain.

Shared Decision MakingNow let’s revisit the doctor’s office scenario from earlier, but with a touch of Shared Decision Making. You have the same mindset as you enter the visit. The same seemingly friendly doctor walks in, but this time the dialogue and care is much different. “Hello Mrs. Jones, I have your paperwork here, but I would like to hear directly from you — what brings you in today?” Wow! She wants to hear from you and not just read it off the page? So, you tell your story of what is going on with your back, during which the doctor also learns that you work a full-time job, have two kids and a large dog, and are leaving for vacation next week. After the doctor performs her exam, she says, “Well Mrs. Jones, it sounds like you have a very busy schedule, especially with a fun vacation coming up, and we don’t want you to be limited by this low back pain. I think (the doctor would insert your personal diagnosis here) is happening with your back. We have a few options for care, so let’s discuss those and see what will work best for you now.”
In today’s healthcare environment, providers feel the pressure to do more in less time to combat a ravenous reimbursement landscape and ever-evolving healthcare system. The result? Patients feel frustrated and dissatisfied with their care because they do not feel like they have adequate (if any) input into the decisions that clinicians make about their health and their lives.

At Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy, we believe there is another way. We believe in putting the patient first and making sure your voice is heard in your care. Our Physical Therapists use a concept called Shared Decision Making as one of the pillars of our approach. Shared Decision Making allows the patient to be a part of his or her own healthcare team.
After discussing options, you, together with the doctor, come up with a plan that includes treatment and follow-up options that keep your upcoming vacation and busy schedule in mind. During your discussion, you are also able to ask the list of questions you brought with you, so at the end of the conversation you feel confident you have a plan that will work for you.

Total time with the doctor was 15 minutes (10 more than the previous scenario). While the doctor may have lost out on seeing two additional patients in that span of time, she gained a patient for life and you left confident and satisfied in the care you received.

As a consumer, patient-centered care that uses Shared Decision Making should be what you look for when choosing any healthcare provider. From your primary care physician to dentist or physical therapist, you are still the most important person on your healthcare team, and you deserve a voice in the care you receive. Remember, no one knows you better than you.