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Fielding questions about neurostimulation devices


Helping Patients Answer the Questions Behind the Questions


Patients are engaged in their healthcare decisions more than ever. In your practice, you’ll encounter a wide variety of questions for any treatment you may recommend and neurostimulators are no exception. 


Patients may not always be direct in their questions.  Some patients may not know how to ask for what they want to know.  Others may ask a question with the hopes that it helps them answer a larger question.  


As physicians, we’re trained to think almost exclusively about the medical merits of one treatment or another.  However, patients are often thinking of a much more diverse set of considerations when it comes to their care.  While patients want the best medical treatment they can get, many are also weighing costs, impact to standard of living, time requirements and many other factors.  


A question like “How long will I be on this treatment?” may sound like a question about time at face value.  But, at closer inspection you may find this person is really concerned with when their insurance deductible renews for the year – really a question of costs.  Children or caregivers of older patients may also ask questions that provide clues to what other concerns may be front and center with the patient.  


When dealing with a neurostimulation practice, being able to identify “questions behind questions” is an important skill to master.  Why?  Because neurostimulation therapy has a good story to tell when it comes to cost benefit and other factors that impact patient satisfaction.  


A 2004 analysis of neurostimulation therapy in chronic pain patients1 found “…reduced demand for healthcare resources by patients receiving neurostimulation suggests that peripheral nerve stimulation and spinal cord stimulation treatment, although associated with relatively high initial costs, demonstrates substantial long-term economic benefits.”  Options for more cost-effective neurostimulation devices have come to market since 2004, likely making this finding increasingly likely.


Likewise, patients may ask about pain management options, but really be concerned with staying out of a nursing home, continuing their hobby or some other lifestyle consideration.  Recommending neurostimulation therapy for a patient with peripheral arterial disease may be achieving two of the patient’s objectives – pain relief and continued independence.  
As people become more attuned to making informed decisions about their health, more options become available to them. Ultimately, medical practices that improve their ability to understand the full range of patient concerns will see higher patient satisfaction and retention rates.    


1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15502691

 


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