In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Spine Division faculty member Dave Finkelstein makes his debut on the podcast to discuss the importance of asking patients if there is anything important they want to cover or do in their session. This question is often overlooked by therapists, but it is seen as one of the most important questions they can ask. By asking this question, therapists are allowing their patients to take control of their care and be in the driver’s seat. The aim is to promote a sense of self-efficacy in the patients’ care and give them the opportunity to express what is truly important to them.
The episode highlights that therapists may be surprised by their patients’ responses to this question. While some patients may be open to whatever the therapist suggests for the session, others may have specific concerns or topics they want to address. It is crucial for therapists to listen to these concerns and not dismiss them for their own predetermined plans. By addressing what is important to the patients, therapists can alleviate their fears and concerns and demonstrate that they are truly listening and invested in their well-being.
Furthermore, the episode emphasizes that asking this question helps to strengthen the therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the patient. By showing attentiveness to the patients’ needs and concerns, it enhances the trust and rapport between them. This, in turn, can lead to better treatment outcomes and a more positive therapeutic experience for the patient.
In this episode, the host discusses the importance of asking specific questions to patients in order to determine the direction of their care. The host shares five specific questions that can be asked to gather important information from patients.
The first question is, “How did you feel after the last session?” This question allows healthcare providers to understand how their intervention or treatment has affected the patient’s symptoms. By knowing how the patient felt after the previous session, healthcare providers can make informed decisions about the next steps in their care.
The second question is, “How are you progressing with your goal?” This question helps healthcare providers assess the patient’s progress towards a specific goal. It allows them to gauge whether the current treatment plan is effective or if adjustments need to be made.
The third question is about the patient’s adherence to their exercise program. The question is, “How often are you keeping up with your exercises?” This question helps healthcare providers identify any barriers the patient may be facing in following their exercise program. It also allows them to assess the effectiveness of the home exercise program.
The fourth question is, “How are you feeling today?” This question helps establish a baseline for the patient’s current condition. By understanding how the patient is feeling at the start of the session, healthcare providers can evaluate the impact of their intervention or treatment.
The fifth and final question is, “Is there anything specific you would like to discuss or address today?” This question gives the patient an opportunity to express their concerns, priorities, or any specific topics they would like to discuss during the session. It allows the patient to take an active role in their care and helps build a sense of self-efficacy.
Overall, these five questions provide valuable information for healthcare providers to determine the direction of a patient’s care. By asking these questions, healthcare providers can gather subjective information, assess progress, identify barriers, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and address the patient’s priorities and concerns.
Take a listen or check out the episode transcription below.
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00:00 DAVE FINKELSTEIN
Alright, good morning to the PT on ICE Daily Show. I am your host today. My name is Dr. David Finkelstein and I have the pleasure of serving as a TA in the spine division. I am a TA in the cervical and lumbar spine management courses. The topic today is ask for directions. But before we jump into the topic for today, I wanted to highlight a few of the upcoming courses that we have in the spine management division. So on September 23rd, we actually have all three of our lead faculty leading courses that weekend. Zach is going to be in Henrico, Virginia at Onward Richmond. Jordan is going to be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Delta Physical Therapy. And Brian is going to be in Parker, Colorado at Onward Denver. So if you’re looking to hop into a lumbar spine management courses, all three of those gentlemen are going to be running courses on September 23rd. If you’re looking to jump into a cervical spine management course, Jordan is going to be in Brookfield, Wisconsin on July 22nd at Onward Milwaukee. Jordan will also be in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26th at his home base of Onward Charlotte. And then Zach on September 9th is going to be in Roswell, Georgia at Onward Atlanta. So looking to jump into a cervical spine management course, those are going to be your next few opportunities in the coming months. All right, so let’s jump in the topic today. The topic is called Ask for Directions. And the idea came from a conversation that I had with one of my coworkers. She was talking about one of her patients that seemed to plateau in their care, and she didn’t know which direction to go in terms of directing her care. So when we’re working with our patients, they’re going to be giving us a lot of subjective information as the weeks go on. And my hope with today’s podcast is to give you all some specific questions to ask your patients to know which direction that you want to go with their care. Right. So I have five questions that I want you to consider, and there were more prompts. So that way you can dive a little bit more into those questions as you ask them. All right. So question number one, how did you feel after last time? I love starting with this question because it helps us know how the patient felt with our intervention after our last session. Right. Usually our patients will say something along the lines of, I felt good. Don’t accept that as your answer and then type into your documentation system and then move on. Right. We want to know how our intervention affected them. So you want to dive into that a little bit more. So when the patient says good, ask them, what does good mean? How good did you feel after last session? How long did that good feel for? Right. So that way we know how effective our intervention was. And if they did feel good after last time, that might be something along the lines of you want to increase the vigor, continue on with the dosage of, of what you did last time to help prolong that good sensation that they felt. Conversely, if they didn’t feel good after last time, if they tell you, you know what, Dave, I actually didn’t feel so hot after last time. I felt quite a bit worse. Don’t panic. That’s actually good news in a way because it helps you know that you were in the right place, but maybe your vigor was a little bit too much or maybe your dosage was a little bit too much. Right. Because if you weren’t in the right place, their symptoms wouldn’t have changed. Or conversely, they might’ve done something between the last session and your current session that also could have flared up their symptoms, unpacking it a bit more. Maybe John said, you know, I felt pretty good after last time, but then I mowed the lawn and then picked up a few boxes and then I did X, Y, Z. And then after that, I felt a little bit worse. So it helps you know exactly if it was your intervention or if it was something that they did afterwards. Right. It also helps you know if you establish their irritability correctly after the initial evaluation. So if you did your particular intervention, you thought they were low irritability and you intervene in an area and nothing really changed, you might want to consider going a little bit more vigorous into your examination or into your vigor to see if you can really elicit their symptoms. And then conversely, if they felt like really flared up after last time, maybe your vigor was a little bit too much and you overestimated their irritability. Right. So in both ways, that’s a really good starting place when you ask the patient. So that first question is how did you feel after last time? Question number two, how did you progress towards X goal in our cervical and lumbar spine management courses? We talk about obtaining a subjective asterisk. Basically, that’s something that the patient that’s important to the patient that you want to measure, but you can’t measure in the clinic. So what that looks like is how many times someone woke up in there in the night because of their pain or how long into their commute they’re able to sit for before they have an onset of symptoms. Right. So if you ask them, John, how did you feel after or how are you progressing with your commute? And John tells you, you know what, Dave, actually, it’s a little bit better because I was sitting for 30 minutes and then my symptoms came on and now I’m sitting for 45. So now you know that your intervention was effective because their commute increased. Right. Whereas conversely, if they say, you know what, Dave, after last time I was in my commute and I was only able to tolerate 15 minutes of sitting before my symptoms really started to act up a bit, then you know, once again, maybe it was that bigger or maybe it was that particular intervention that you did that was a little bit too much that that might have increased their symptoms a bit. So asking them how they felt with that specific goal, with their subjective asterisks that you obtained in the initial evaluation, seeing how they progressed with that. And also keeps those goals that are salient to the patient in the back of your mind that you continue to ask them in those follow up sessions. Right. So that’s question number two. How are you progressing with X goal? Question number three, how often are you able to keep up with your exercises? I love asking this for a home exercise question as opposed to are you doing your home exercises? Because it’s a little less judgmental. Right. If the patient didn’t get to do their exercises, you’re asking them from a place of curiosity as opposed to did you do your exercises? So when you ask the patient how often are they doing their exercises, it gives the patient opportunity to even tell you, you know what, Dave, I actually didn’t. Wasn’t able to keep up with those exercises. Don’t judge them for not doing their exercises, but look at that as an opportunity to examine barriers to their adherence to their home exercise program. Right. So you can tell John, like John was up. How come you weren’t able to do those banded external rotations? And they tell you, you know what, Dave, I just didn’t have an opportunity to go out and buy the bands because I’m a little short on time and it did help after last time, but I just I wasn’t able to go on by the band. So that way you now have the idea that the barrier was purchasing the bands. Right. So then you can change that exercise to a sidelined external rotation. We’re holding a can of tomato sauce there. You’re kind of taking out that barrier of buying a band. You got the stimulus that you wanted. And then you also taught John a way of creating a weight in his house using a can of tomato sauce. Right. So using that as an opportunity to identify a barrier. And then also, if your intervention was effective as far as a home exercise program. So take, for example, a patient with low back pain radiating down their leg. They say, you know, Dave, doing those prone press ups that you gave me, I felt pretty good for about an hour after you gave me that exercise. But then it kind of went back to baseline afterwards. And then you realize that you dose that out three times a day. You might consider asking John, hey, John, you know, you felt pretty good for about an hour after you did those exercises. What are your thoughts on maybe increasing that from three times a day to six times a day? You know, it might sound kind of aggressive, but in that way, you’re increasing that dosage of that thing that was helping John. So now you’re getting a good idea of how your home exercises are affecting your patient and then playing around with that dosage or that particular intervention. Right. So that question, once again, is how are you how often are you keeping up with those exercises? Question number four, how are you feeling today? Seems like a very basic question that we ask all of our patients. But I want you to think about why we’re asking our patients that. We’re asking that question to establish a baseline, how they feel right now. So that way, if we do some sort of intervention, that we know how it’s changing their baseline symptoms. This is another opportunity that the patient might say, good, don’t take that good as a as your answer. Tell them, like, can you unpack that for me a little bit? Tell me what what good means and then start to trace out their symptoms. See exactly where their symptoms are, how intense are their symptoms? So that way, when you establish that baseline, you feel really confident about the intervention that you did, whether or not it changed their symptoms for the better or it did. Right. Establishing that baseline. All right. So question number four, how are you feeling today? Question number five, I think, is one of the most important questions that we can ask our patients, but is often overlooked. So question number five is, is there anything you want to cover today? Talk about do that’s really important to you. In that question, we’re taking our hands off the steering wheel and allowing our patients to be in the driver’s seat. We want our patients to feel a sense of self-efficacy in their care. And this is the best question to open that opportunity to know what’s really important to them. Right. Maybe our patients will say, you know what, Dave, whatever you want to do today, I’m game for, which is fine. And then you continue on with that plan that you had. But your patients might surprise you and say something on the lines of, you know, Dave, I was actually thinking about it the other day that I don’t really know how to get off the ground if I were to fall. And that’s kind of in the back of my mind for a while. In that the patients opening up to being vulnerable and saying, hey, this thing is really important to me. What you don’t want to do is ignore that and be like, well, sorry, John, you know, I had this other plan and I just want to proceed with it. We’ll cover that in the next session. You want to cover the thing that’s most important to your patient because it’s going to help take that kind of fear, that concern out of the back of their mind. And then in addition to that, you’re helping boost that therapeutic alliance by addressing that thing that’s really important to them. Right. Nothing is going to tell your patient more that you’re listening to them, that you’re concerned about them than intervening in that thing that’s really important to them that day. Right. So that question is, is there anything that you want to talk about or do today that’s really important to cover in our session today? So those are the five questions I’m going to give you a quick recap. Question number one is, how did you feel after last time to know how your intervention affected their particular symptoms? Question number two is, how are you progressing with X goal? Recapping back to their subjective asterisk, making sure that you know exactly what’s important to them and how that’s progressing or not. Question number three is, how often are you keeping up with those exercises so that way you can identify barriers to their adherence to their exercise program in addition to knowing how effective your home exercise program actually is? Question number four is, how are you feeling today? Knowing the back of your mind that you want to establish a baseline so that way you know how your intervention is affecting the patient. And then question number five, once again, really important to ask our patient, is there anything important that you want to cover, talk about, do today that would be beneficial? Right. So give those questions a thought. Try that out. Keep in the back of your mind why you’re asking these questions and then diving a little bit more. Let me know how it goes. Shoot me a message in the comments section. I love talking about this stuff. I love the conversational piece and the Therapeutic Alliance piece of patient care. If you’re looking for more opportunities to jump to some courses or see some of our free resources, go to PTNICE.com. Check us out. Everyone, thanks for giving me some of your time and have a wonderful morning.
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