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Doctor key player in any crash victim’s health care

The treatment of car crash injuries often requires a team of health care professionals.

The family doctor is a key player on that team.  When I describe the family doctor’s role to my clients, I refer to him or her as the quarterback.

The quarterback surveys the field and calls the plays.  While seldom actually running with the ball, the family doctor makes the important decisions as to which other health care professionals to pass or hand the ball off to, and when.

The quarterback needs to have a full grasp of what’s going on in order to be effective. The most effective family doctor is one who has familiarity with your medical history before the crash, and has the benefit of regular update consultations so as to be intimately familiar with the progress of your therapy and symptoms.

This reality is not restricted to car crash injuries.  Continuity of care provides the very best effectiveness regardless of the medical concerns you may have.

When I first start working with a client, I spend anywhere from an hour to several hours getting a complete medical history leading up to the crash, a description of the crash itself, and a full description of their medical care and symptoms since the crash.  The result is a multi-page comprehensive memo that gives me the kind of complete picture that I need in order to effectively advise my client.

It is that same kind of big picture that a doctor requires in order to prescribe effective treatment.Doctors cannot afford to spend that kind of time getting a history.  They’re simply not paid for that.

Of course, there is no need to get a comprehensive history from a patient if the doctor has an ongoing treatment relationship with the patient.

We live in the convenient age of the walk-in clinic. Why go to the extra trouble of booking an appointment a couple weeks down the road to get a renewed prescription for physiotherapy when you can just pop in to a clinic?

Put yourself in the clinic doctor’s shoes.  Imagine the frustration of being asked to exercise professional medical judgment in the treatment of something as complex as a car crash injury on the basis of a drop in consultation.  How effective can a quarterback be if he or she is thrown into the game completely blind?

Then consider what you are doing to your regular family doctor.  Instead of being regularly updated with regard to your care, and being given the opportunity to follow through with strategies and redirect the course of your treatment as may be necessary, you’re pulling him or her out of the game every second or third play.

It’s a small wonder that some doctors refuse to take on new patients for the purpose of treating a car crash injury.  Not only is there the significant time and energy required to get up to speed; there is no guarantee that the patient will assist with the continuity of care by sticking with that particular doctor.

I often encounter clients who have never had a consistent relationship with a family doctor, and are struggling to find a doctor willing to put the time and energy into getting up to speed regarding their injuries.   If my clients could only hand over the comprehensive memo I put together with them, it would avoid the duplication of effort and likely increase the willingness of a doctor to take on the patient.

The problem is that if the doctor gets that memo, the insurance company will get the memo as well.  The doctor’s records are always produced in the course of the claim.

Why would that be so bad?  Well, the insurance company will go line by line, word by word, though that memo, hoping to find anything that will hurt my client’s case.  As I have described in previous columns, truth and honesty are not enough when innocent inconsistencies and inaccuracies can kill a claimant’s credibility.

There are bound to be innocent inconsistencies or inaccuracies in the preparation of such a comprehensive memo.  While such things would not impact on the usefulness of such a memo to give the “big picture” to the lawyer or a doctor, they would have the potential of seriously compromising a claim because of insurance company tactics.

Thankfully, I have found that our local doctors, for the most part, go above and beyond their professional medical obligations to assist injured crash victims with the treatment of car crash injuries.  I have been struck by the willingness of some doctors to take on the treatment of complex cases in a market where family doctor time is at a premium.

It is perhaps the lowest paid medical work available, because of the meagre consult fees and additional time and effort required.

Please assist those many gems in our medical community.  Once you are being cared for by a doctor who is willing to treat you, keep him or her in the game for every play.  Take the relatively small extra effort of booking regular update consultations with that doctor.  Don’t slip in on a walk-in basis to a doctor who has no familiarity with your case.

Oh, and perhaps thank him or her periodically for going that extra mile.

Published November 18, 2007 in the Kelowna Capital News