What Happens Next? Planning Care

People: What’s wrong with me? Should I tell the doctor? What does she want me to do?  Can I afford it? Does it (will it) hurt? Can I (will I) still take care of my family (go to work, go out, have fun)? What happens next? How’m I doing now? Did it work? Did it help? What should I worry about? What should I do if it happens (again)?

Clinician: What’s on his mind? What’s wrong with him? What should I do next?  Did it work? What do the tests tell me? What should he do next? Did he do it? Will he let me know? What is anyone else doing about it?

Questions, questions, questions. So many bumps in the road and detours  in the health journey. Few maps, spotty GPS at best.

Essentially, the medical part of the health journey is 1. Finding out what’s going on (diagnose). 2. Plan care (What needs to happen, by whom, when? What do we expect to happen (outcome)? What could go wrong, how can we prevent it, and how will we deal with it if it happens?. 3. See if the plan worked. 4. If it didn’t, adjust, try something else.

We are each an experiment of one.

These days I’m fascinated by the planning care part. Neither the patient nor the clinician can plan care alone. They need each other and much support – family members, other professionals, technology, and most of all – communication.

Eventually, everyone plans care – usually over and over. Our health system doesn’t seem geared toward planning care. Ten minute infrequent visits between patient and clinician. Routines and technology that can’t handle the dynamic, constantly changing information flow of planning care. The information certainly isn’t easily available to everyone on the team when they need it. Few, if any, rules (standards) exist for patients putting information in.

People: When you speak with a clinician, agree upon a plan of care. Set up a way to ask questions as they come up and report on status, be it portal, email, phone, or keeping a journal.

Clinicians: Use the words plan of care. Write the plan down. Let your patients know how to communicate status and ask questions as they come up before the next visit.

Everyone: Expect your electronic health records to be able to record and track care planning.

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