Clinicians talk…Patients forget.

Published by cathalmalone@hotmail.com on

Does this sound familiar?

You’re feeling tired but satisfied after finishing another busy clinic.

You’ve listened to each of your patient’s stories and having examined them you deliver a comprehensive explanation of their diagnosis and treatment plan.

Your patients listened intently to your every word, they understood all that you said and left your clinic with enthusiasm to successfully implement their treatment plans.

A great job, well done…….or maybe not?

As a clinician we all hope that this is the outcome of our consultations but with experience we know that it’s not so simple. Anything but.

If we rewind things a bit, the reality is that during our consultations we spend the majority of time questioning and examining our patients. We are then left with only a few minutes to explain our findings and to present the best case possible to engage our patients to participate in their treatment plan.

These few minutes that we are left with, are for most consultations, the key minutes we spend with our patients. However, I feel (and know from personal experience) that many patients leave their appointment with their head spinning as they have been bombarded with a deluge of complicated information.   

Gone are the days of simply explaining to a patient that most MSK problems can be sorted with some ‘exercise, hands on treatment or electrotherapy!’. We have now reached a stage in musculoskeletal clinics where the importance of the ‘psycho’ and ‘social’ influences to a patient’s pain are as much discussed as the ‘bio’ influences are.

I believe we are currently working in an exciting time in musculoskeletal healthcare as the evidence grows of the need to acknowledge the patient’s overall ‘story’ as much as to manage the pathology that they may present with.

However, with this increased evidence and knowledge base comes with it a responsibility to be able to deliver this information in an effective and responsible manner. To say that simplifying the topics of neurophysiology, psychology, sociology and biology in relation to a patient’s msk complaint is an easy task, is an understatement.

To deliver this information effectively comes from having a unique blend of skill and experience that doesn’t occur overnight. We’d all love to be as witful as Lorimer Moseley or eloquent as Peter O’Sullivan with the delivery of our clinical findings but their delivery skills have been honed through many years of experience.

Perhaps rather than discussing all that we may have recently learnt (at the mercy of feeding our own ego’s), it may be best for us to just start by simply addressing the patient’s own agenda and their understanding of the problem.

In the short period of time that is usually left at the end of a consultation, an effective outcome can usually be created by the ‘less is more’ rule. If we can send our patients away with a little more knowledge than they had before coming to their appointment then we have started with a small win that could lead to bigger ones.

So, during your next patient consultation, as you prepare your discussion, remember to keep it simple. Your patient will hopefully leave with a greater chance of starting their treatment plan rather than simply forgetting everything you’ve just said.


Author: Cathal Malone MCSP MMACP

Bio: Cathal is a lower limb and spinal extended scope physiotherapist and founder of MSKnote Ltd.

‘MSK assist’ is their new digital solution which tackles the problem of poor treatment outcomes due to the inability of many patients to retain clinical information and self-manage.

‘MSK assist’ allows GPs, FCPs and musculoskeletal clinicians to effortlessly provide their patients with the information that was discussed in their appointment in the form of a personalised treatment plan along with a range of supportive tools that encourages behaviour change and self-management.

If you are attending this years PhysiotherapyUK conference and would like to know more, then please come along and have a chat with us at Stand 73. 


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