August 05, 2020
How to End Your Medical Care
All patients are different, so every injury treatment scenario is like a fingerprint. Regardless of how much your doctors try to shoehorn you into their treatment model, something about your case will be special. Your transition away from medical care should be tailored to your needs and your injury. This article will explore common questions that are unresolved at the completion of medical care, and provide you with strategies for dealing with them.
When Have I Had “Enough” Treatment?
Practically, very few people are cured. The human body is a marvelous creation, and once it is damaged, doctors may lack the tools to put it back together again (think, Humpty Dumpty). Our bodies’ ability to heal depends on the severity of the injury. A minor cut leaves no trace, but a major wound may result in an unsightly scar. The same is true for internal injuries.
If treatment results in a total cure, and there is no trace of the injury and no effect on the body’s ability to function, there is no need for further treatment. However, if the doctors do their best, and you still hurt, or you can’t quite do all the things you could do before, how will you know it is time to let the doctors stop?
This is a terrible problem for many people, particularly those with neck or back injuries. For some people, there is no cure, no surgery, no procedure that will make them pain-free and allow them to return to their pre-injury activity level. For these people, further treatment may actually make them worse.
There are treatments designed to cure, and treatments that help you cope with the pain or dysfunction caused by an injury. Surgery is performed to restore function by repairing a structural problem or eliminating a painful condition. Pain management treatment helps you cope with pain and by doing so may enhance function, but typically does not repair or eliminate anything. These are just examples.
Ideally, you will have a doctor acting as the “quarterback” of your medical team, who is steering you through these treatments. This role may shift from a primary care doctor, to a surgeon, to a pain management doctor.
You hope to continue your medical treatment until your problem is improved to the point of “maximum medical improvement,” meaning the doctors have done all they reasonably can to make you better. Once you are there, you are typically released.
What If I Still Hurt When I Am Released?
Sometimes, a patient is released before they are ready. Doctors may put you through the course of treatment they think you need, and they do not realize you need more treatment. This is usually due to poor communication. Some doctors are better listeners than others. Most doctors want their patients to get better. Speak up! Let your doctor know the problems you are still having.
Many times, a patient is feeling great on their final visit, and then after they are released, they try to increase their activities, and they start hurting again. OH NO!!
The solution? Call the doctor’s office. Make an appointment to go back in. Talk to the doctor about your attempts to increase your activities, the pain, or other symptoms you have had, and ask what to do. This will be new information, and the doctor may reassure you that you are just “working the kinks out,” or you may be told you need more tests or treatment.
How Do I Talk to My Doctor?
Some doctors are easier to talk to than others. That’s because doctors are people, and most of them are busy. You can usually tell if your doctor is difficult to talk to. If you are concerned about your doctor’s reaction to you, try the Jeopardy! method: say everything in the form of a question. Instead of saying, “You did all that treatment to me, and it still hurts when I try to lift a box,” which might make the doctor defensive, try: “Is it unusual that it hurts when I try to lift a box?”
You should also use the doctor’s staff to communicate with the doctor. Your doctor has assistants for a reason, and you should treat them as if you were speaking directly to the doctor.
What If I Have More than One Doctor?
You should always make sure all the doctors know about each other. But never quote one doctor to another. In most cases, different doctors take care of separate problems, and when this happens, there is no conflict. However, if you are seeing two orthopedic surgeons at the same time, it will usually be because one treats spines and the other treats shoulders. You should discuss the doctors you are seeing with your lawyer, so you can avoid a conflict.
How Does My Lawyer Fit into All of This?
Your lawyer is not here to give you specific medical advice, or to direct your treatment. However, your lawyer may be able to help you understand some of the issues that arise during your medical treatment, and to facilitate your medical care. Whenever you have a problem of any kind during the time you have a lawyer, if it relates to your case, to your injury, or to your medical treatment, it is always a good idea to call your lawyer FIRST.
Our attorneys at the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant are experienced in personal injury cases. We can recognize potential issues that may impact your treatment and recovery after an injury. If you have a serious injury caused by the neglectful actions of others, contact our team at (713) 973-8888 to discuss your case and any problems you encounter in your medical treatment.
What if I Have a Medical Emergency?
None of this information is intended as medical advice. However, one thing you should always keep in mind. If you think you or a family member is experiencing a medical emergency, CALL 911. If you have a serious medical issue, seek medical attention immediately.