Are you happy with your progress? (the must ask physio question)
Communication is critical in the delivery of good health care. I believe that the delivery of great clinical outcomes in physiotherapy is reliant on the astute use of a practitioner’s hands and their words (via their mouth).
Crossing a Physio Finish Line®
At POGO we measure our success on how many of our client’s cross their Physio Finish Line®. That is how many of our clients get done what it is that they actually came to get done.
A client’s Physio Finish Line® may be their desire to get back to pain free running so they can compete in their half or full marathon of choice. Another example of a client’s Physio Finish Line® may be getting back to full workplace duties following persistent lower back pain. A regular example of a client’s stated Physio Finish Line® is a client with a frustrating injury that is producing pain and threatening their ability to be physically active on upcoming vacations.
Whatever the stated Physio Finish Line® our aim as practitioners is ensure we help our clients cross their Physio Finish Line®, complete the necessary rehabilitation, and in doing so get back to their physical best.
There are many important and I believe non-negotiable elements of care that when included as part of a client’s clinical care process enhance the likelihood of the client crossing their Physio Finish Line®.
One of these non negotiable skills or behaviours is asking a simple question at the beginning of each client’s physiotherapy appointment.
What is the question?
The must ask question I believe every practitioner needs to ask every client, every consultation* is:
Are you happy with your progress?
*beyond the initial consultation
When to ask the question
For many years of practice I have asked this question inside the first several minutes of a follow up consultation. I have found that beyond the keen interest I have in the status of their overall function and whether or not it has improved, stayed the same, or worsened, I am equally as interested in the client’s perceptions of their progress.
Is the client happy with their progress?
If yes what specifically are they happy about?
Or is the client unhappy with their progress?
If so specifically why are they unhappy?
The question is affording you an insight into the perceptions the client has of their progress (or otherwise) which is really a way of gauging whether or not the client’s expectations of progress are being met.
Why this question is often not asked
Sadly this question is often not asked by otherwise well-meaning practitioners who attest to be focussed on optimal client care and outcomes.
The reason why the question is often not asked is because I believe the practitioner is hesitant to learn of the response to the question.
Asking this question in most instances exposes the practitioner to learn the truth about how their client’s are feeling about their rehabilitation journey.Asking this question in most instances exposes the practitioner to learn the truth about how their client’s are feeling about their rehabilitation journey. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
In binary terms the client could answer: Yes I am happy with my progress, or No I am not happy with my progress.
It is the anticipation of the latter response that prevents practitioners from asking their clients if they’re happy with their progress.
Rather than ask the question and respond appropriately the therapist may choose to not ask the question and instead assume that given that the client has returned that the client ‘must be happy’.
To assume the client is happy, and press on with rehabilitation on this assumed basis, not asking the client Are you happy with your progress? is a mistake. The failure to safely provide an opportunity for a client to freely share how they are feeling about the process heightens the likelihood that the client will vote with their feet and not return to finish the rehabilitation, often citing that the therapist or treatment process just ‘didn’t work’.
Why this question is so important.
The benefits of asking are you happy with your progress? include:
- Provides a non confrontational way for clients to give feedback, express their concern or perhaps disappointment with their lack of progress , or unmet expectations to date. Without being asked it is often times unlikely the client would feel comfortable in telling their therapist that they are unhappy, their expectations are not being met, or that they are thinking about trying another practitioner in order to get done what they are trying to get done (cross their Physio Finish Line®).
- Builds esteem in the client’s eyes. Generally only a secure and confident therapist could be perceived by the client to initiate such a question.
- Builds and deepens trust in the the therapist/practitioner relationship. In being vulnerable by asking the question the therapist is actually deepening trust with the client.
- Enhances the likelihood of the client reaching their goal (crossing their Physio Finish Line in POGO speak). This enhanced trust has a positive effect on the likelihood of the client completing their rehabilitation.
The effects of not asking are you happy with your progress?:
- Client does not return for next appointment as they are dissatisfied with their progress and fear not achieving what they wish to achieve.
- Damage to the therapist’s professional reputation, the practice’s reputation, and to some degree the physiotherapy industry reputation. In essence all failed to help the client get done what they were ultimately trying to get done/achieve, resulting in the client likely seeking the required assistance via an alternative practitioner, possibly practice, and possibly service offering (see below for our internally used training tool about this ‘trifold brand damage’)
- Reduces transparency and therefore trust in the therapist/practitioner relationship. Trust between the two parties is a key component of achieving successful rehabilitation outcomes.
- Potentially costs the client more in time, energy, and resources in trying to get their rehabilitation completed. If the client doesn’t drop out of their treatment journey, the impact of not asking this question may be that clinical results are delayed and reduced. The potentially negative impacting on the fee paying client-being that it takes longer to complete rehabilitation than it otherwise may have if the Are you happy with your progress? question is being asked.
If you are reading this you are most likely a healthcare practitioner. Irrespective of your discipline of healthcare I implore you to begin asking this important question. Watch what happens to the client’s journey and their outcomes.
I believe I am more effective in helping my clients cross their Physio Finish Line® as a result of my commitment to ask this question, every time, with every client.
View the video:
Physio With a Finish Line™,
Brad Beer (APAM)
Author ‘You CAN Run Pain Free!’
Founder POGO Physio
Host The Physical Performance Show
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog