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What to expect when you see a doctor

Carefully picked numbers decorate the small square ticket that your cold sweaty palm cradles. Excitement races through your body with an electric tingle. The lottery is up to more cash than you could ever spend in five lifetimes. Dreams of how you will spend your fortunes occupy every idle moment. How will you tell your boss you are DONE? Should you buy the red Ferrari or the black Rolls? When the time comes to check the numbers, you sit at your computer. With a single click and the confidence of a king’s oracle, you await the display of your chosen numerals. Up they come, and… WHAT? Not one number matches! Cursing! Sulking! Screaming! Fists clenched, head back, you shout “Why me?”

With 300,000,000 to 1 odds, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

Pain and suffering come in life when expectations are not realistic or properly managed! This is particularly true when seeking health care. Whether it is the fault of the provider or patient, unmet expectations can sabotage a healthy outcome. Overcoming such pitfalls requires proper and concise doctor-patient communication.

One man, who received my care 19 years ago, came back to my office recently with a complaint similar to his past one. He sat down and impatiently told me, “This should not take long to treat, because the last time I had the condition, it only took a few weeks to get over.” To his benefit and mine, he made his expectation clear from the start. Unfortunately, he did not take into account how his body was different at age 40 than at 21. He had been subjected to years of weekend warrior softball, countless sedentary hours in front of a computer, weight gain and progressive inflexibility. He was a human canvas colored by a display of trauma and wear that took years to paint.

Recognizing that managing expectations can be a double-edged sword, I gave this person a reasonable expectation of what his current needs were based on the reality of the changes that had occurred over the years. At the same time, I did not want to rob him of the intangible healing power of hope by leading him to believe that he is just getting older and has to live with it (ever hear that one before?). Many doctors overplay the age card. Too often, I have observed improvement in people previously led to believe that they were ailing from the wrong birth date!

So, what did I say to this gentleman on our 19th-year reunion? We sat down together and I related what I had found and how he was different than when we previously crossed paths. I ended his report of findings by letting him know that I expect fantastic results despite the way his body has changed through the years… but, it may take a little longer. He did respond to treatment as expected, was out of pain, and was very happy. And it did take a little longer.

A sweet-natured and agreeable woman entered my office for her first visit. Every word out of my mouth was met with her nodding in approval and saying, “Oh, yes doctor.” I have learned that this type of yay-sayer tends to drop out of care early. I was NOT going to let her out of my sight before she could appreciate all that chiropractic care provides! I had to be sure that her expectations were being addressed. With a little nudging by asking her regular questions such as “what concerns, questions, or pleasant surprises do you have about your care so far,” she finished treatment with her expectations exceeded. She still smiles and says, “Oh, yes doctor” at her monthly wellness visit.

Remember the Meineke Muffler TV commercial where a professional wrestler bursts into the shop and shouts, “I’m NOT going to pay a lot for this muffler!”? For all of you born after 1986, you can still find it on YouTube. It is as important for you as it is for the doctor’s office to make financial expectations clear. An unmet expectation regarding money is perhaps the greatest undermining factor in one’s care. You don’t have to shout “I’m NOT going to pay…,” but ask enough questions until you are sure that you understand what your expected financial commitment is for care. As an additional attempt at clarity, we recommend that our patients call their insurance company as well and compare notes to what our office was told. It’s always a good idea to expect the unexpected. Although my staff takes great effort and time to determine one’s health insurance coverage, at times the only way to know is to go through a billing cycle and see how the claim is processed.

Too often people focus on what a doctor expects of them. It is equally important that you start by asking yourself what you expect from him or her. What needs to be done? What are the benefits and limitations of my insurance? How long will it take? What will it cost? Will it hurt? Are there risks to care? Will I make a full recovery? What if I have a question for the doctor? On the second visit, I sit down with each new person to my office and provide a written report. In addition to covering what was found and the care plan needed, I list what I expect of each person. One of my most important written expectations is that the person asks me any and all questions that they have at any time!

Remember the adage, “You don’t get what you want, you get what you expect!” This may be true in many aspects of life, but when it comes to your health you need to make sure that your expectations are heard. At times it may feel as if you are challenging your doctor’s authority, overstepping your place or over-complaining. If you find that communicating with your doctor is not to your satisfaction, find another. For your own sake, do not remain silent and apprehensive.

I EXPECT you to take this information to heart, tell all your friends about this great article in Delaware’s best magazine, and answer the most important question that you can regarding your health: “WHAT DO I EXPECT?”

Dr. Scott Rosenthal provides quality chiropractic care to patients in Wilmington, Delaware. He also writes a monthly column in Living Well Magazine. Whether you're searching for effective pain relief or a way to boost whole-body wellness, Rosenthal Chiropractic can help.

Call our office at (302) 999-0633 for an appointment today!