I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs. I used to set up balloon displays for weddings and bar mitzvahs. I worked in organ and tissue recovery removing human parts for transplant. I even worked, for short stints, on an ice cream truck, in a bank, in an amusement park and in late night food delivery. From every job I learned something — some skill or lesson that I continue to use in my practice.
This week, a patient told me he had gone for an MRI for a problem that I was not treating him for (a possible cartilage tear in his shoulder). He was very upset that he did not have an appointment with his orthopedist for another 4 weeks. An entire month of wondering if he would need surgery. He wanted to plan a vacation but was hesitant to do so if he would need to save up his time off from work. His family history of cancer was also worrying him; he wondered if the MRI had illuminated bone cancer as the cause of his shoulder pain. He was worried, anxious and not sleeping well.
One of the jobs I had prior to chiropractic school was performing clinical testing for a medical device that measured early signs of breast cancer without ionizing radiation. (It looked kind of like an EKG for the breast and measured surface electrical potential which is different in cancer cells vs. normal cells). This job required me to spend time in several mammography clinics around the world.
One of the things that stuck with me from this job was the way one particular radiologist ran her clinic. It wasn’t sterile looking with tile floors and paper gowns. Patients were treated with dignity. Real pillows and sheets on the exam tables. Carpeted rooms. Women were given a mammogram and then went into a comfortable waiting area where they could have a cup of tea and wait. The mammogram was read by the radiologist while the patient was still in the building and she would be given the results right then and there….that very day. I had heard horror stories of women with breast lumps going for mammograms and not getting the results of their test for weeks. That can make for a very long, sleepless time period.
I hear this too often. Patients are sent home to wait. No news is good news, right? Wrong. We should be actively giving patients their test results as quickly as possible. Sure, we know it’s just a standard blood workup or x-ray or CT, but to the patient, we’re going to spot the same thing that wiped out their uncle Frank in his 40’s. Every patient who has an x-ray has the same thought, if only for a second: I have cancer or something horrible and this is the test that’s going to show it. Some of them are correct but they have the right to know. Be proactive to get test results quickly and call your patients with them. Don’t even wait until the next appointment. (And for Heaven sake, don’t call them and tell them you see something and they need to come in to discuss it in 2 weeks). They’ll be back in to see you regardless and the goodwill you generate will outweigh any lost office visit fee.
Oh, what about my patient? I got those MRI results for him before he even hit the door to leave my office. Negative for cartilage tear. Just some inflammation. Looks like that trip to Cabo is on!
Dr. Brett L. Kinsler is a chiropractor practicing in Rochester, NY