Monday, May 23, 2011

5 Steps to a Successful Surgical Consultation

              Most people DREAD the “S” word--- Surgery.

    I am sure you’re one of them.  At the mere suggestion of going under the knife, you’d be like, "No thanks, Doc, and if you insist on it, I will unfriend you".  (Thanks to Facebook unfriend is now a word, it even became “Word of the Year”!).  Especially if your doctor is not as convincingly charming as me.(hehehe)

     But when you’ve finally mustered the courage to see a surgeon, you definitely want it to be as quick and comprehensive as possible. What can you do to maximize your time consulting with him/her and minimize the unpleasantry of this experience?

     1. Call the clinic beforehand to confirm your doctor’s schedule.  Emergencies do happen and surgeons are occasionally called for emergencies, and need to re-schedule their clinic hours.  Calling ahead will prevent long hours in the waiting room, or worse, the way prices are rising these days, wasting gasoline.

       2. Tell your doctor your history as truthfully and accurately as you can.  I sometimes encounter patients who are reluctant or embarrassed to talk about their symptoms.  Remember, we are doctors, not policemen or judges. We need to know what really happened.  If you were involved in an accident, it doesn't really matter to us if it was your fault or somebody else’s fault.  But we don’t need EVERY detail, a concise and chronologic narration of events is all we need… we aren’t trial lawyers either.      

       3. Keep in mind that your doctor will examine you.  Expect us to perform a physical examination (PE).  We cannot reach a good diagnosis by just looking at your x-rays.  (It’s hard to physically examine an xray-- they don’t talk to us. = (. I often hope my friends, who like to do “ambush” consultations during reunions or parties, will understand me when I tell them to visit me at my clinic. I cannot do a physical exam on top of the dinner table.  =)  And in doing the PE, we need to examine the most painful part, your knees, for example.  I find it amusing that some patients seem surprised that I am going to examine their knees when they complain of knee pain.  So please wear loose-fitting pants, shorts or skirts if your knees are the problem.

     4. Bring all relevant diagnostic test results (whether xrays, MRI, etc) done on you if you were already seen by other doctors.  That will definitely save you a few pesos and a lot of time.  Though sometimes, we may still recommend other tests to diagnose your condition. 

        5. If you have already been diagnosed before, try to read beforehand about your condition so that you may clarify all your concerns. In other words, prepare an agenda.  I think, on average, an orthopedic consultation is about 10-20minutes (that’s just my opinion). I try to make sure that my patients understand the anatomy of the body part involved, the surgical expectations, and the risks and benefits of each treatment option. Sometimes, though, we may fail to do this due to varied reasons, such as time constraints, an emergency call came, etc.  You can't always count on doctors to ask the right questions.  It is better if you start asking questions.

   Most failed physician-patient relationships stem from misunderstanding and unreasonable expectations.   Good communication begins from a successful surgical consultation.
Orthopedic joke:
A young woman went to her doctor complaining of pain.
"Where are you hurting?" asked the doctor.
"You have to help me, I hurt all over", said the woman.
"What do you mean, all over?" asked the doctor, "be a little more specific.
The woman touched her right knee with her index finger and yelled, "Owe, that hurts."
Then she touched her left knee and again yelled, "Ouch! That hurts, too."
Then she touched her right arm, "Owe, even THAT hurts", she cried.
The doctor checked her thoughtfully for a moment and told her his diagnosis;
"You have a broken finger."

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