Is your doctor the best? Does he or she listen to you carefully and answer all your questions? Do you leave each visit knowing more than when you arrived? I just came back from the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine(AACPD) annual conference in Montreal where I learned that many, many parents have problems in communication with their healthcare team. Problems exist at all levels, but the buck stops at the doctor’s desk.
Families struggling with a special needs child should learn about how doctors actually think. We are trained to look for problems and we make up our minds quickly. As Dr Groopman explains, “On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment.”
The current trends in training young doctors (and therapists) compounds this problem as a test result is often taken as the final diagnosis, rather than listening to the parent and actually seeing what the child is capable of doing. The use of the GMFCS as a prognostic guide is just one example of how a good idea…a standardized test of function at a single point in time… can be used incorrectly as a predictor of future function and intervention needs. What nonsense! Dr Groopman’s book helped me understand that my training as a doctor could actually make it easier to explain how smart people can come to a wrong decision. I consider his book a necessary part of any parent’s survival kit as they navigate the healthcare system. He has many valuable suggestions that will help.