Collaboration with other health professionals has always been important for me as a chiropractor and for my practice in Inverness. It is often through working together that patients are able to get the correct diagnosis and the right treatment.
I cover a small region in North Scotland so I have good working relationships with local osteopaths and physiotherapists. We know each well and we know what each other can do and how our work benefits patients. This knowledge means word of mouth referrals are quite common.
Patient first approach
We share the same patient first approach and we recognise the importance of referring patients to the health professional who can provide the best treatment for the patient’s needs.
Some clinicians struggle to strike the right balance when referring patients. They can be apprehensive, concerned that a referral means taking away a patient and therefore business for their practice. Of course, referring a patient doesn’t mean the end of the patient-clinician relationship. On the contrary, in fact it can strengthen it.
Pointing a patient in the right direction for specific treatment serves to reinforce a clinician’s expertise and reputation. Ultimately, they are still a vital part of finding a solution for the patient’s problem. In my experience, a patient will remember this referral.
Working together to provide a vital service
My practice provides a diagnostic service so we regularly receive referrals from osteopaths and physiotherapists requesting x-rays for their patients. This service has helped to open doors to building relationships with other health professionals.
An osteopath recently approached the clinic to x-ray a patient who had fainted coming out of the bath and hit her neck on the taps. The local hospital diagnosed whiplash and, after seeing the GP, the patient was referred to a physiotherapist. The patient was reluctant to follow the recommended exercises which led to an osteopath referral. However, the patient refused a neck examination and the osteopath got in touch with us and we carried out an x-ray which revealed an unstable type 2 Dens fracture. This x-ray, and the collaboration between health professionals, helped to save the patient’s life.
We x-ray patients following a GP referral and these x-rays are used by hospitals and are logged on a patient’s record. This means patients don’t require a duplicate x-ray at the hospital so there’s greater convenience for the patient and it means one less appointment needed at the x-ray clinic!
Importantly, by working alongside GPs and hospitals we can help a patient receive a quicker diagnosis and ultimately, start them on the path to recovery.
Trust and confidence
As our work becomes better understood amongst health professionals, we benefit by having better working relationship with GPs. Previously, a referral letter from a chiropractor may not have been prioritised. Now, in my experience, nine times out of ten if I write a letter to a GP with a clinical opinion about a patient, the GP will act on it.
A patient was recently referred by their GP to neurology on the basis of a referral letter from my practice. They didn’t need to wait for a GP appointment in order to progress a diagnosis. At a time when many GPs are only seeing urgent cases the level of trust and confidence between chiropractor and GP can benefit a patient enormously.
Of course, there are still some GPs who don’t understand the work of a chiropractor or the difference between chiropractors and osteopaths. Some GPs see us as complementary therapy. If GPs, medics, chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists trained alongside each other and understood, at an undergraduate level, the role of each profession then it would be possible to change the ‘complementary’ label’.
In my experience, GPs who have referred a patient often become patients themselves and then they truly understand what we do and how we can help their patients.