Recently, Healthassist Healthcare Advisor, Anne Jacoby, began working with a new client. During the evaluation process, she learned that both the client, Jake, and his wife and Care Partner, Elizabeth, had mixed feelings about Jake’s neurologist from whom he sought care for a movement disorder.
They set out to improve that relationship using many of the techniques described in our June 2017 newsletter. This included gathering all medical records, obtaining test results from outside entities, enrolling in a Patient Portal, making a list of Jake’s medical history and medications, creating a written agenda for an upcoming meeting, and practicing how to address the topic of the relationship itself.
When to make a change
Despite Jake and Elizabeth’s best efforts, their next meeting with the neurologist was unsatisfying. They did not feel heard, and at that point, held out little hope that things would improve. They knew that in managing a progressive condition such as Jake’s, the relationship with their movement disorder specialist would be critical to their lives for a very long time. So they asked Anne to assist with finding and interviewing a new neurologist.
Here are some things Anne helped them to do:
- Investigate all the neurologists within a certain distance who practiced in the field of movement disorders. Specialists often become sub-specialists in the management of specific diseases – finding those with the appropriate skills and experience was critical.
- Research the process by which second opinions can be obtained by these sub-specialists. Protocols differ by physician practice. For some, you must discuss your case with an internal staff member assigned to screen prospective patients. For others, you must send your request and all associated medical records in advance for review, before an appointment will be made.
- Fortunately, Anne had guided Jake through the gathering of his records so he could easily deliver them to the office of the physician from whom he decided to seek an appointment. This preparedness allowed him to obtain a new patient appointment within two weeks of his request.
- Research Jake’s insurance requirements to be sure he was following the guidelines for obtaining second opinions, thus ensuring future payment. This step is often overlooked, an omission that can result in administrative barriers and additional costs.
- Create an agenda that included the topic of why Jake was seeking another opinion/physician. It contained “Communication Methods” as an item so that he could outline his needs for the future. (This time, if he were going to make a change, Jake wanted to ensure that communication would flow more readily.)
- Practice what he and Elizabeth would say as they began the meeting. Phrases such as, “creating a partnership with my physician for the long term as I manage my progressive condition,” were used in the preparation.
When the time came for the initial meeting with the potential new neurologist, Jake and Elizabeth were not sure they would be making a change. They first wanted to test the waters and, since Jake was not in crises, they had the time and space to consider their options.
As it turned out, Jake and Elizabeth were happily surprised by the first and second follow-up meetings with the new physician. All their agenda items were addressed, and the doctor followed-up by phone and email communication as promised after reviewing test results.
In addition, the physician provided Jake and Elizabeth with suggested resources to read, encouraged them to become involved in a local support group at which he often lectured and, most important, viewed their relationship as a mutual partnership among the three of them.
Unfortunately, the relationship with our physician(s) is an often overlooked aspect of successful medical care. Thankfully, with a little bit of preparation and coaching, most clients are able to maintain and improve the communication and connection they feel with their medical professionals.
When this is not the case, patients must feel empowered to make whatever changes they feel necessary to improve their situation.