A patient will come to your clinic to seek care for their own respective injuries, pain, or other complaints. The patient will then come to the front desk to check in for their appointment, and then wait until the healthcare professional is ready to see them. Once the patient is in the treatment room with their designated healthcare provider, there is a usual course of care has a common structure:
The patient typically will be evaluated and come for several follow-up visits. The patient will eventually be discharged from care whether it is to continue a self-management program or referred to another provider for further assessment.
But here’s a thought, why do we discharge patients? Why do we have a start and an end point?
In my opinion, patient care is continuous. Receiving care never stops. Receiving care doesn’t have to be a doctors visit or appointment. It can also be a sense of certainty and knowing your healthcare professional is managing your care, even when the patient isn’t physically present.
Perhaps we need to change the structure a bit. Instead, we should refer to each time the patient sees the healthcare professional as an “episode of care”. This episode of care is just one point in the patient’s continuum of care. Sometimes we may need to see a provider more than once in a year, or maybe we don’t have to seem them for many years. Fact of the matter is the continuous loop doesn’t change.
Perhaps the structure should look more like this:
Maybe we think too linearly when we are seeing patients in our clinics. Perhaps we need to think more long-term and understand how our patients will need guidance at some points in their lives. So, maybe let’s try to keep open lines of care to our patients so they have an opportunity to learn how to manage their respective episodes of care.
Managing an individual’s health should be a continuous process.
Article Written By Eric Trauber, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT