Dr. J. Fred Stoner Discusses Students Specializing in Orthopedics & What Their Patients Expect
Having a successful patient result (and building a successful practice through those results) as an orthopedic surgeon is as much dependent on managing the patient’s expectations and communicating with them as it is on the actual success level of their treatments. Dr. Joseph Fred Stoner is a leading pathologist and clinical pain management specialist based out of New Castle, Pennsylvania. He has a deep understanding of managing patient expectations and took some time to explain how students specializing in orthopedic can best manage their patients’ expectations.
If patients have unrealistic expectations of the results that they’re likely to see heading into treatment, they’re unlikely to be satisfied even when those results are generally quite good. Dr. J. Fred Stoner states that this requires orthopedic surgeons to strike a careful balance between offering prospective clients the hope that specific treatments may improve their condition without promising more than can realistically be assured.
While it can be tempting to be overly optimistic as a means of both inspiring the patient and potentially landing them as a client, doing so can set the surgeon up for failure regardless of the outcome. And in this age of rampant litigation over real or perceived injustices, that can be a dangerous path to take.
By the same token, being too cautious for the sole sake of keeping expectations lowered is equally suboptimal (unless it’s truly warranted), being likely to drive the client into the waiting arms of a healer who will provide them with more cause for optimism.
Managing Post-Treatment Expectations
Dr. J. Fred Stoner explains that even in cases where the initial treatment has been effective, patients need to know their physical limitations and what actions or activities could prove too risky for the joint, ligament, tendon, etc. in question.
A relapse, whether due to the patient re-engaging in the same high intensity interval training (a growing cause of knee and shoulder issues) or picking up a new activity that poses a risk to their treated area, is likely to be blamed on ineffective treatment rather than their own miscues. An effort to help manage their activities or provide pre-activity regimens that can be followed to limit their risk of relapse can go a long way towards ensuring the successful treatment result is still successful a year from now.
Managing Expectations Following Unfavorable Results
In other cases, treatments will come up short of even the lowest expectations or unforeseen complications may arise to throw an added wrench into the mix. J. Fred Stoner states that these scenarios are inevitable and need to be handled with compassion and understanding towards your patient.
Dr. Stoner further shares that studies show that empathy is equally as important as the quality of information provided, and that patients want both those things. Patients also appreciate apologies for when procedures didn’t work out as hoped, whether that was any fault of the surgeon’s or not.
The surgeon’s focus should then be on moving forward and providing the patient with new hope and cultivating new expectations rather than dwelling on the negative outcome or trying to redirect blame.
Even if the situation seems hopeless and the surgeon can’t offer any other treatment option, it is important to bear the placebo effect in mind and always leave clients with some measure of hope that another expert may be able to help them (refer them if possible), even though that means swallowing a bit of personal pride.
Dr. J. Fred Stoner’s Final Thoughts
Properly managing patient expectations through effective communication can make all the difference between having satisfied clients who know you had their best interests at heart and treated them honestly and fairly, and unsatisfied ones who are left wondering if you’re incompetent or a fraud.
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