Many people who are injured in auto accidents fail to realize the importance of the relationship created between them and their medical providers. As in any relationship, poor communication can create problems. I stress to my clients the need to “be a good patient”, and explain the reasons that’s important. However, before we discuss those reasons, let me explain what I mean by “being a good patient”.
“Being a good patient” requires three things.
First, you must keep your medical appointments. Be on time so you don’t waste the doctor or other health care providers’ time, and so you are not rushed or distracted when you see the doctor. You want the doctor to be fully focused on your health problems, and not irritated that you arrived late or missed an earlier appointment. If the doctor thinks you are trifling, that may affect how they treat you; after all, doctors are human, too.
Secondly, each time you visit your health care provider, you should give a thorough and accurate description of how you have been doing. At every visit, you will be asked how you are feeling and what problems you are having. This is an important question medically. Without thoroughly explaining the symptoms and difficulties you have experienced since the previous visit, your health care provider will have no idea if there has been any progress and, if so, to what extent. Think about this before you get to the doctor’s office, so you can respect the doctor’s time by giving the most important information in the most concise manner. As I sometimes tell my clients, your doctors and therapists are not mind readers, and they cannot see your pain. If you give a thorough and accurate explanation of the symptoms and difficulties you have had since the last visit, then your doctor can accurately assess your condition, and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Finally, follow your doctor’s advice. Of course you should get any prescriptions filled and do any exercises or stretches they recommend. But following their advice also means you need to be clear about what activities the doctor thinks you should and should not be doing, including work. Also, don’t leave the doctor’s office until you know when you are supposed to return, and what changes for the worse might bring you in sooner. If you are not clear, ask before you leave the doctor’s office.
Now, let me explain the three major reasons I believe it’s important to “be a good patient”.
First, it enables you to communicate with your doctor and for him to have the best understanding of your condition, so that you can receive the best medical treatment available. Getting the best treatment facilitates healing from your injuries as quickly as possible. So you have the best chance to have the right treatment and make the fastest recovery.
Secondly, “being a good patient” helps create an accurate written record that correctly portrays your circumstances. What you report to your health care provider will be written down in your medical chart. In your personal injury case, both the insurance companies, their lawyers and your lawyer will carefully scrutinize your medical records in an effort to determine what injuries and problems will likely be proven to have been caused by the accident. If the medical record is inaccurate or incomplete because you, as the patient, have failed to provide the appropriate information, then you may not receive the compensation for your accident case that you deserve.
In summary, it is prudent to “be a good patient” when receiving medical care following injuries from an accident in order to promote healing and also provide the basis upon which full and fair compensation can be determined. You help yourself when you help your doctor give you the best medical care.
About the Author: Charles Allen is a Richmond car accident lawyer with the Richmond personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. He has handled injury cases for Virginians for more than 25 years.