Practice Tip Videos : Episode 2

This practice tip explains why we often waste valuable time by asking our patients the wrong type of questions, and how to avoid this.



Hi, my name is Wayne Mahmoud from CPD Health Courses, bringing you today’s practice tip. Today’s practice tip is a question, and that question is what’s your opening line? What I mean by that is this, what’s the first thing that you’re going to say to your patient, a new patient that comes in next week?

So, you’ve dispensed with the formalities, they’ve sat in their seat, you’ve sat in yours. You’re ready to go, what’s the first thing that you’re going to ask them? Well the answer to that is probably one of these types of questions. You’re going to perhaps ask them, “What brings you in to see me today?” “How can I help you today?” Or something along those lines. They’re all open questions. The problem with open questions is this, they’re going to take too long to answer. And by taking too long to answer, that’s your patient taking too long to answer these, because they’re open questions. That’s going to leave you less time to achieve the goal that your patient desires. Their patient goals, not yours, their patient goals. What have they really come in to do today?

So they’ve come in to get better, to get out of pain, to return to function, back to work, whatever it is. So, the problem here is if you ask them a question which is an open ended question, that’s going to take valuable time away from your whole treatment time, leaving you very little time to do the really important stuff. The issue here is that we normally have, in our patient treatment time, a certain allotted time for taking a history, and then examining the patient, and then treating them. And then perhaps at the end giving them some exercises or some advice, and so on.

That’s great for us, but it’s not really tailored for the patient. What they really want, and what they really don’t care about, is any of that stuff. The only thing they really care about is what you’re going to do. Putting your hands on them and giving them a plan. So, two things that they want to walk out with, they want to walk out with some treatment perhaps, and a plan. And I say treatment perhaps because that’s not even that important. It’s really walking out with a plan. What are you going to do for them to get them back to whatever it is that they’ve come in to see you about? Work, play, sport, whatever.

So, the longer you take to get to that point, the more stress it’s going to be. And the patient is going to get agitated. You want to give them a closed question, it’s a much better option for you, especially with a new patient when there’s lots to do, but you’ve got to pick your time, pick the questions, and make sure that you only do the things that are really important.

So, picking a closed question is going to give you the right answer, and it’s going to take far less time to answer for your patient and give you the same information. Because let’s face it, your patient isn’t trained in writing your case history, they don’t know what’s relevant and what isn’t relevant. So, you’ve got to find that out, and you’ve got to give them the questions that will bring out those answers as quickly as possible.

So, your case history usually starts off with something like patient complains of X, Y, and Z. And so on, and we go through all those case history questions. 98% of them are completely useless and won’t help you find their treatment and a plan. So, what I would do is give them a closed question, and that closed question will respect the fact that a lot of patients really want to make sure you understand how they arrived at this point. What was the story? How did they get in pain? What led up to the fact that they can’t work anymore, or can’t play sport any more? Whatever that is.

So, how you do that is this. You might start off by saying, “I’m going to go through your history in detail. But, first of all, can you just tell me where you’re in pain or discomfort right now.” So, that sentence respects the fact and allays any fears or anxiety that your patient has about you not getting to grips with the story, because you’ve told them you’re going to go into detail, which you are. But you’re going to carefully pick those questions that give you the answers you want straight away.

But at the same time, all you want to know is what’s the problem right now? Where’s their pain right now? What can’t they do right now? Is it referring? Are there any neurological symptoms? Are there any red flags? And so on. Those are the key things for you. You’re still being compliant, you’re still being safe and making sure that you get the right information in your case history to arrive at the treatment and plan, but it’s much quicker, leaving you important time, valuable time, to get to the goal. That’s patient’s goal of having some kind of idea of what you’re going to do with this particular presentation.

So, that’s my advice. Stick to closed questions as your first line, the first thing that you say. And that way you’re going to save yourself valuable time to really concentrate on what’s important. Hope that helps.

Hope you liked that practice tip. See you next time.

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