Asking Different Questions and Asking Questions Differently

“What matters to you?” -vs- “What’s the matter with you?”

This simple turn of phrase is one of the key differences to our approach at Peak Health.

We find it’s a valuable window into our patients’ thought process. We are called upon as clinicians to broaden our own lenses and discover the things that really matters to our patients.

Having this shared goal is valuable for both parties. Patients have a lot on their plate and health concerns add to that burden. All of us want to be in good health, certainly. But the “why” needs to understood, as well. It’s important for their continued motivation to stay on a wellness program, and it’s important for clinicians to share a goal to work towards and achieve. It can often re-prioritize our treatment strategy and sequencing of interventions. More than that, it makes our work exciting as we can help others fulfill their life dreams where they were once limited by matters of health.

Physicians are classically trained to approach every encounter in a standard fashion. This is called a SOAP note for Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan. The subjective is usually stated in terms of a Chief Complaint. And the rest follows from there — first taking a careful history, then performing an exam and finally coming up with a plan. It’s worked well for many years. However, it’s not well adapted to our modern world. In days of old when the reason most people visited a doctor had to do with a singular acute bout of an illness or injury it was fantastic. Today, however, the reasons to see a provider have more to do with a chronic health concern, or in most cases, concerns.

Let’s unpack that for a moment. The first distinction has to do with the question of a complaint versus a concern. We do not start an encounter with a complaint. We prefer to address a concern. We believe the distinction is powerful. It puts things in a negative light from the very start to say the word “complaint.” We want to start on a positive note. There is a concern. We will address it in hopes of improving on it however possible.

Then there’s the matter of transference. The doctor asks for a complaint. The patient gives the complaint to the doctor, and the doctor must take it and act upon it. That transference places the sole responsibility on the clinician. In some cases that is necessary. Take an acute fractured femur. There is not much the patient can do to manage that! The responsibility will rest on the provider almost solely, at least at the outset. Then take a concern such as blood sugar regulation. A significant responsibility is shared between the patient and the provider. Diabetes is running rampant in the industrialized world today. Just handing out prescriptions for medications is failing to combat the epidemic. Clearly, we must take a different approach. This is where patients and providers need to come together and co-manage the disorder. This mismatch of thought process is wreaking havoc in modern conventional medicine. Outcomes suffer. But, increasingly, the provider also suffers. Burnout amongst medical providers is reaching epidemic proportions. The reasons for this are numerous, but it is one reason Peak Health has chosen to take a different approach. We believe it works better for patients and providers.

Our approach is much different. It starts long before someone walks through our door for a visit. We ask our new clients to fill out a brief, but eye-opening two-page health history questionnaire. This questionnaire is unlike anything seen from a conventional medical encounter. Briefly, we touch upon all of the aspects of their physical, mental, social, behavioral, and spiritual determinants of their health as a unique individual. We ask everyone to share their concerns and rank them. We ask how they feel about their health and what they think may be at the root of their concerns. We ask what their goals are and what they are motivated to accomplish in their life. It’s a deep and introspective process. We know it will require some dedicated time and thought. And possibly by the end of it, even foster new clarity and insight. We are not going to hurriedly shove a clipboard at you as soon as you walk into the waiting room (mainly because we don’t believe in waiting rooms either!) and expect you rush to fill it out. We respect you too much for that. We want you to to take your time. The form can be filled out online well in advance of your appointment, preferably at home on your computer or tablet while sipping a cup of coffee. And unlike the clipboard forms in traditional healthcare, we will scrutinize your information in detail and use your answers as a springboard into starting our healing journey together.



Copyright 2019, Peak Health LLC

Dallas Peak MD
About the author

A medical doctor who will "Look Deeper" to help everyone achieve their "Peak Health"

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