Are You A Passive Patient or an Active Consumer of Healthcare?

Think about the last time you made a big purchase, say $1,000 or more. Did you go out and buy the first thing you saw? Take one recommendation from somebody? Or did you research it, learn some things, compare it to other options, and select something that was right for you? Most people tend to be educated and research large purchases like cars, televisions, or the newest iphone. So why do we so often fail to do this with healthcare?

By becoming more educated healthcare consumers we can go from passive patients who take the first recommendation that comes from a practitioner to an active consumer who weighs options and makes choices. Here are some questions to talk through with your practitioner the next time a healthcare decision comes up.

What are the benefits or expected results?
When a treatment or procedure is recommended, the patient often assumes that it will make them "better." But what the patient expects and what the healthcare provider expects are often two different things. For example, a patient having back surgery expects to be pain free after surgery. The surgeon probably doesn't expect that to happen. Outcomes from back surgeries are terrible. A large study of 1450 patients in the Ohio worker's comp system showed that after 2 years 26% of patients who had surgery returned to work. Compare that to 67% of patients who didn't have surgery. There was also a 41% increase in the use of painkillers in the surgical group.

What are the risks and downsides?
Patients want to hear about the benefits of a treatment, but they often don't ask or care about the risks. To be an educated consumer, you need to. If one treatment has a 3% edge over another, but has a high risk of making you itchy or causing frequent headaches, do you want it? Going back to the back surgery study from before, the researchers found a 1 in 4 chance of a repeat surgery and a 1 in 3 chance of a major complication. With surgery you risk infection, blood clots, complications with anesthesia, and a whole host of other things. These risks need compared with other treatments. In the case of back pain, physical therapy is a valid alternative with a much lower risk profile. You might have some soreness with physical therapy, you might sweat some and be challenged with exercise, but the risks of PT compared to surgery are minimal.

What are the alternatives?
Don't feel bad asking about alternative treatments. If you were looking at a certain car you wouldn't go out and just buy it. You'd at least consider the competitors and probably even test drive them. You should at least look at the other options in healthcare too. Maybe the

Heat, humidity and hydration

Heat indexes are rising this weekend so it is important to remember to stay hydrated and take shelter from the heat.  So, is there any way to know if you are at risk for dehydration?  According to the July 2019 NATA News if you awake in the morning, and are more than 1% lighter than the prior day, have dark yellow to golden or brownish urine and you feel thirsty, this makes you very likely to be at risk of dehydration when participating in activities in hot/humid conditions.  If two of those three conditions are present, you are likely to be at risk of dehydration. 

 Please know that certain vitamins and medications can alter the color of your urine too.  Some ways to stay hydrated include drinking water, milk and sports drinks.  Other food sources for improving hydration include watermelon, strawberries, bananas (because they are high in potassium, a nutrient important for muscle function), iceberg lettuce and spinach, cucumbers and radishes(especially peeled to reduce the fiber content), celery, and cauliflower (which is 92% water by weight).  You need to stay hydrated before activities in the heat, during the activity and after the activity.  Don’t let yourself become dehydrated and suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke which could lead to death.  Think before you plan any outdoor activities, especially on hot and humid days like the predicted conditions for the upcoming weekend.  Please stay safe and healthy during the hottest days of the summer!

Get PT First for Recreational Injuries!

Summer is finally here and that means more opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature.  It’s a popular time for lots of recreational activities including hiking, kayaking, bicycling and swimming.  But sometimes increased physical activity can result in injury.  Muscular and joint sprains and strains, especially in the knees and ankles account for the largest portion of recreational injuries.   Following the old advice of RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is appropriate for these injuries, but seeking physical therapy treatment can help reduce the pain and symptoms associated with sprains and strains.  Ultimately this results in you returning to full function more quickly.

In the state of Pennsylvania, you can directly access physical therapy without a referral from your physician.  This means, if you have commercial insurance, you can come directly to a PT first for evaluation of your condition and subsequent treatment can continue for up to 30 days without needing physician referral.  At the time of evaluation the physical therapist will determine, based on your symptoms, whether therapy is appropriate and necessary or if you should be referred to a physician for examination and possible imaging. 

Whether you are experiencing lingering joint pain from a running injury or have a sprain/strain from a recent fall or injury while hiking on uneven terrain, getting immediate evaluation by a physical therapist could help you get back to your activity sooner.  

Have questions or unsure if you should seek treatment? Contact our office and talk with one of our Physical Therapists or schedule an evaluation and get back to enjoying the activities you love!

Jen Buono, PT, DPT


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