Injuries affect us all at some point during our active lifestyles. Some are acute…some chronic. Fixing these injuries can range anywhere from resting to having it surgically repaired. If we experience a musculoskeletal injury (or pain), how do we determine what to do next? No one likes “down time”! We work so hard to make progress, and we don’t want to lose that progress. Let’s face it; NSAIDS and rest are hardly ever the answer. So, how do I find the right provider with the right treatment options to fix my injury efficiently and reduce this dreaded down time?
There are many different clinical providers and specialties these days, so it can be an arduous process trying to find a provider with appropriate training, expertise, and commitment to patient care and satisfaction. This can be especially challenging when it comes to soft tissue and joint injuries. There are agreed-upon clinical guidelines for evaluation, testing, and imaging throughout the health care industry. However, these guidelines are not widely followed because many providers are overworked, overscheduled, and unable to devote the one-on-one time with each patient necessary to fully evaluate and accurately diagnose the source of pain or injury. This can result in costly imaging and other diagnostic testing, over-prescription of pharmaceuticals, and premature surgeries. The lack of proper diagnosis and treatment can result in many conditions never fully resolving—leading to a lifetime of chronic pain and reoccurring injuries.
Here are five helpful indicators for selecting an injury care provider:
Check the provider’s educational background. In this day and age, every provider should have a website with these details. Have they had additional training in musculoskeletal conditions through certifications, residency, or fellowship training? It is important to remain knowledgeable about the most current developments in treatment protocols.
The provider should take adequate time to compile enough information to detect the true nature of the injury. This will lead to a more accurate diagnosis and a more effective treatment plan. Experienced providers have a good idea of what they think the diagnosis is within the first couple of minutes of speaking with you about the injury. However, adequate time should be taken to perform the necessary testing to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other possibilities.
Musculoskeletal injuries can be complex. It is imperative that a thorough examination by a medical professional with the proper training be performed to detect the true cause of the pain, as well as other contributing factors. In my experience, many providers will resort to imaging immediately to save time and reduce liability. However, taking an adequate history and performing the proper functional, orthopedic, and neurological testing can help decrease the need for costly imaging (X-rays, MRIs, etc.).
Other than the obvious, which is whether the treatment is safe and effective, one big question to ask is, “Is the treatment plan outcome based?” What does that mean? It means that the treatment plan is based on progress, or outcome, rather than just being a set plan regardless of outcome. I often hear from patients that they decided to stop going for treatment because it was not working. If the treatment were outcome based, the provider should be the one informing the patient that he or she should not continue with that particular treatment.
Why continue if there is no progress…right? Just ask the provider on the first visit how soon you should see results and what happens if you don’t see results by then. An effective musculoskeletal treatment should provide results within the first couple of treatments. There is no good deal on a treatment that doesn’t work. I suggest basing your treatment decision more on effectiveness than cost. Remember: The goal here is to find a provider and treatment that effectively and efficiently fix your injury. Health care is not the place to shop for “bargains.” Rather than looking at the cost per treatment, look at the cost of fixing the injury. Is it more efficient and cost effective to have your injury completely resolved in three treatments at $300 per treatment, or to spend $75 per treatment at 12 treatments and feel only a little better?
This one is rare, but it is gaining ground because insurance companies want to see data supporting effectiveness of treatment. Look for providers who track the outcomes of their treatments and make that data available to their patients and the public. Like I said, they are rare and may be hard to find, but they do exist.
These five indicators should help ensure that you are heading down the right road to a speedy, efficient recovery for your injury. Keep in mind: There is no treatment option that is 100 percent effective for 100 percent of the people. Do your research and find the right provider for you. Movement is the spice of life! The sooner you figure out how to keep moving and reduce down time, the sooner your quality of life will improve!