You can’t have surgery without a surgeon, but without a sympathetic support team, there would be a lot less surgery taking place. It’s this support team – especially the schedulers – that help patients who are feeling hesitant about having surgery and contemplating refusing treatment.
Although many patients are eager to have surgery, there are many cases where patients are reluctant to commit to going under the knife. Here are five of the most common reasons why patients are inclined to refuse surgery and how schedulers can help ease their concerns.
Most common reasons why a patient refuses surgical treatment
1. It’s all about the money
In an ideal world, patients would all be able to get the treatment they need, without having to consider cost. While we aren’t at Elysium levels, some people are turning down surgery on the grounds of cost.
Those without top-notch insurance or without insurance that covers their particular course of treatment are declining treatment to avoid the astronomical costs that can come with surgery. Added to this, having surgery often impedes one’s ability to work post-op, which further limits their ability to pay those expensive insurance premiums – leaving them facing a terrible Catch 22.
There’s no denying the cost of some surgeries appears insurmountable. However, rather than letting patients give up on surgery altogether, it’s time to get creative with the Benjamins. Schedulers should discuss creating a short- or even long-term payment plan that will work for both the patient and the practice. Obviously, the practice has to be on board with this policy, but payment plans are more and more prevalent these days, simply because of the financial burden on the patient.
2. The long road to recovery
For some patients, it’s not the surgery but the long, hard slog that follows. Even the most straightforward day surgery – think bunion removal ops – can cause extended periods of inactivity and a long recovery.
If a patient cannot take the time off work or does not have someone to look after them following their procedure, recovery can seem insurmountable and surgery be taken off the (operating) table. Given this, some patients are looking for non-surgical alternatives that may eventually accomplish the same results, but won’t result in missed time from their day-to-day lives. A choice that’s understandable given the lack of benefits for many workers.
While there’s no denying that getting over any surgery is hard, sometimes, the old “nothing to fear, but fear itself” adage holds true. Part of the fear of surgery is the unknown. Understanding the recovery process could decrease some of the stress and hesitation to go ahead with treatment.
To avoid a patient refusing surgical treatment, schedulers should ensure patients sit with the surgeon or medical staff to work out the best recovery plan to minimize the impact on their daily routine. They can also share any patient engagement tools the practice uses to assist with recovery. Showing them that they are not alone in the recovery process may be enough to convince wavering patients to go ahead with their surgery.
3. Risky business
While anyone who undergoes surgery hopes it will be the last of their medical problems, it’s not always the case. Even with top-of-the-line equipment and superior medical knowledge, surgery still carries risks such as infection and even the need for supplementary procedures.
At the other end of the spectrum, patients can be concerned the doctor is being too quick to rush into surgery without exploring non-surgical options first. That’s not always far from the truth. Each year, thousands of unnecessary operations take place. In some cases, such as lumbar spinal stenosis – a type of lower back pain – physical therapy is just as successful as surgery, with none of the risks.
Schedulers can play a big role in easing worry about both the risks of surgery and concern about an unnecessary operation. They should discuss all the details of the surgery and lay out what is done to prevent things from going wrong, such as pre-op tests to make sure the patient is healthy enough for surgery and post-op plans to ensure the success of the procedure.
4. Aging barrier
They say age is just a number and while that number is sometimes higher than we might like, gone are the days of dismissing surgery for older patients on the grounds of their birth year. That’s not to say age shouldn’t be taken into account, however, older patients and their family shouldn’t dismiss themselves as surgical candidates outright just because they happen to be in their golden years.
Schedulers can reassure anyone worrying about their age that the surgeon has already weighed up the age risk before recommending surgery. Doctors differentiate “chronological age” from “biological age.” They factor in not only how likely the patient is to survive surgery and recover well after their procedure, but also the long-term effect of surgery.
As the popular Internet quote attributed to Geoffrey Parfitt goes, “People say that age is just a state of mind. I say it’s more about the state of your body.” When it comes to surgery, that’s certainly true.
5. A short-term solution
Everyone hopes their surgery will solve what ails them, however, some surgeries can only offer a temporary fix. In certain situations, the best surgery can do is temporarily ease symptoms. Given the stress, risk and cost of surgery, it’s hardly surprising some forgo the temporary fix and instead opt to just live with their symptoms.
While this is understandable, sometimes a short-term fix is the best outcome. When patients are hesitant about this option, schedulers should make sure the doctor talks about the benefits of the surgery and assures them it’s the right choice for their predicament. Patients should understand that it is the best option for them in the long run, even if it is not the miracle cure they were hoping for.
Effectively addressing why patients refuse treatment
For a patient refusing treatment or wavering on whether to undergo surgery, schedulers are not only the people trying to find a suitable date for surgery, they can also play psychologist, hand-holder and financial advisors in one. By listening to and addressing a patient’s fears, schedulers can make the difference between whether or not the patient opts for surgery.
Learn more about the critical role schedulers play in running a successful surgical practice at Surgimate.