The Benefits of Treatment Plan
By Robert D. Eisen, D.C.
Bioscience Department Chair ESATM
I had the opportunity to teach Western Medical Research last Semester and as part of the class we undertook the creation of a research paper. This paper was titled Utilization of Standard Treatment Plans and Patient Compliance in the Outcome of the Treatment of Pain at the ESATM Student Clinic. What we discovered was that not every student utilizes a treatment plan and sadly not everyone understands that benefits of a treatment plan.
As a chiropractor, I use treatment plans on all my patients. They provide an added benefit to my practice in 3 ways. Firstly, let me say that this is my opinion of the use of Treatment plans in practice, but I believe one that is valuable to both the provider and the patient.
What is a treatment plan? Well in simplicity the treatment plan is a plan of action for your care of the patient. It tells the patient what the provider will due to care for their condition, it tells the patient what their responsibility is in their own care and lastly and maybe not the most popular, it helps maintain the viability of your practice.
Treatment plans can be broken up into two categorize, short-term and long-term care. The short-term plan is designed to address the patients’ chief complaint. It allows you to provide care at set intervals to address the needs of the patient and follow up with them to make sure they are compliant with the recommendation you make so that they can achieve their goals. I have heard that “acupuncture is not the same as western medical/chiropractic treatment and that treatment plans do not fit the acupuncture model.” This I have heard from students, but when I speak of this with some of the acupuncturist that I refer to in practice they have a different view. I have also heard that “we are not taught how to make treatment plans or that the patient can get better after 1 visit.” While I might believe the later of the two statements, the administration of a treatment plan can and should be used to guide the course of care.
The treatment plan also addresses the patients home care. This is an important aspect of care as it pertains to what may have caused their chief complaint in the first place. Lack of exercise, weekend warrior syndrome, sedentary job, computer work are just some of the things that can contribute to a patients’ complaints of lower back pain, neck pain and headaches to name a few. Treatment plans designed to address ergonomics, exercise programs and diet are especially important for not only the short-term goal but the long-term plan as well. Acupuncture like Chiropractic care take a whole person approach to health care. We believe that a patient is not a sum of their pain but an accumulation of all their daily activities and lifestyle choices. This aspect goes into the long-term treatment plan and goals for the patient to have a healthier life.
Thirdly, and maybe not the most popular aspect of a treatment plan is that it provides your practice with patient visits. This unfortunately is needed for you to keep your doors open.
If a patient is not given a detailed plan as to how many treatments, you believe are required to obtain their desired outcome of care then they will come when they want, your practice will be dependent on them returning for follow up care. They will make their own determination as to the benefit of your treatment and use your practice as they would an aspirin or pain reliever (my emphasis). They will effectively remove your ability to monitor the progressive changes in their symptoms (either improving or worsening) and take away your ability to change the treatment to obtain the desired outcome of care.
While short-term treatment plans are usually goal oriented to remove pain as fast as possible it is not uncommon to see a patient 3 times per week. Remembering that a patient will most likely not comply with recommendations at onset of care and continue the lifestyle which caused the issue in the first place. Seeing them more frequently at the onset of care allows you to monitor their progress and make the necessary recommendations, provide the needed care and continue the education process move them to a long-term treatment plan which may include lifestyle and ergonomic changes, (if this is their goal).
Remember that the treatment plan is the recipe for success, not only for your patient to reach their health goals but for the health of your practice.