What are the Most Important Questions to Ask During an Initial Interview with a Patient?

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What are the Most Important Questions to Ask During an Initial Interview with a Patient?

The initial interview is probably one of the most important moments of a patient’s episode of care. This is an opportunity for clinicians to learn how to receive prudent information that will help guide them during clinical decision making.

The initial interview helps us understand what the patient is experiencing and what is causing their respective symptoms. However, there may be an important question that will ultimately be the most beneficial for practitioners.

First, let’s discuss what information is gathered during this initial phase of the evaluation. The clinician may want to know what the patient’s chief complaint is, past surgical/medical history, social history, what makes their symptoms better or worse, among other questions. However, I think it’s important to ask our patients the following:

Have you had physical therapy before?

What was good about your experience?

What was bad about your experience?

What did you find helpful during physical therapy?

These questions are crucial as it helps us to really understand the patient’s past experiences with conservative management. Also, it allows us to determine what the patient thought was helpful. Patients will tell you exactly how they felt during prior bouts of conservative care. They will provide insightful information that will only be helpful to you. Knowing this basically provides most of the information needed to proceed with the episode of care.

For example, if a patient says, “my last physical therapist did very basic exercises with me and I didn’t really like that”, you may want to challenge this patient. Also, demonstrating why these “basic” exercises are important to allow the patient to progress to higher level of exercises.

Therefore, it becomes important that we truly understand the journey patients have traveled. Learning about each patient’s journey will allow us to really know how to help our patients better. Understanding this valuable importance will help make the patient’s experience more successful.

Article Written By Eric Trauber, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT