Putting Your Practitioner to the Test
Posted on: November 22, 2012 by Dennis Doyle, CAT(C), BAHSc, BComm
I often get questions from my patients about other forms of therapy. They ask what I think about acupuncture, or chiropractic, or naturopathy, or physiotherapy, and so on. Especially when improvement is very gradual, or when therapy is used in a preventative manner, people want to be sure there will be a return on the time and money they are investing. My answer is always along the same lines. I tell my patients that although I am not an expert in other forms of complementary medicine, there are always certain things to look for to judge the quality of your medical care. Each of those fields has something to offer, and the most important thing is to seek out a great practitioner of that particular discipline. Luckily, there are clues that can tell you when you’ve found one. When you are evaluating your therapist, there are a few key things to look for:
1) Your therapist is genuinely interested in your condition. When you think back on your appointments, there should be no question in your mind that your therapist was digging for information on your progress; asking the right questions, tracking your symptoms, and testing appropriately. It should be obvious that they are trying to figure out where to go next, searching for a solution, and going back to the drawing board if necessary. To a great practitioner, every patient presents a learning opportunity. If you have a sense that your therapist is simply punching the clock, or they spend the entire appointment talking about what they did over the weekend, it is time to look for a new practitioner. The appointment should revolve around you, your condition, and how to get you better.
2) Your therapist has a game plan specific to your case. It is critically important that your therapist can envision the beginning, middle, and end of your treatment protocol (depending on your condition). Your therapist should have goals in mind that are specific to you, and they should be willing to discuss them. If you ask your therapist how they plan to progress your treatment and they don’t have a good answer for you, this is definitely a red flag. If your therapist is not spending time trying to figure out your case, then why are you spending your time and money coming to see them?
3) Your therapist keeps good medical records. If a treatment is worth doing, it is worth recording. Do you see your therapist taking notes about your experiences since your last session, or about the treatment they are performing today? If your therapist does not seem to be recording anything in a physical chart or in a medical records program on a computer, this may be a red flag. If in doubt, simply ask your therapist to briefly walk you through your treatment record for the past two or three appointments. They should be comfortable with this request, and open with your records. If their notes are poorly kept, illegible, or they are hesitant to produce them for you, it may be time to look for a new therapist. Poor or disorganized records are usually a good indicator of poor or disorganized medical care.
Those are some of the clues I look for to evaluate my own medical care. If the practitioner I have chosen meets those criteria, I know I am in good hands.
Are there other criteria you use to evaluate the members of your health care team? Let us know!