Jun 28, 2023

5 Reasons Why You Should Create a Treatment Plan for Your Patients

Imagine setting off on a road trip without a map, GPS, or any clear sense of your destination. You might eventually arrive somewhere, but it'll likely be a frustrating, inefficient journey filled with wrong turns and unnecessary detours. This is what recovery can feel like without a treatment plan. In the healthcare field, a well-structured treatment plan serves as a roadmap, guiding both the patient and therapist on a clear path to recovery. It's an essential tool that provides direction, establishes goals, and promotes engagement throughout the healing process. 

As a clinic owner or therapist, your primary aim is to help your patients recover and reach their functional goals. But to achieve this effectively, you need more than just your expertise in therapy.

In this blog, we'll delve into the top reasons why creating a treatment plan is essential for your patients' recovery. We'll discuss how it sets clear expectations, provides an overview of the recovery process, shifts the focus from symptoms to goals, enhances compliance and retention, and fosters better communication.

1. Sets Clear Expectations for Recovery 

Setting clear expectations is the cornerstone of a successful patient-therapist relationship. To illustrate, consider a patient who has suffered a knee injury and has a long-term aim to run a marathon. Without a treatment plan, this goal can feel daunting, if not impossible, for your patient. However, a well-structured treatment plan sets clear expectations and provides a step-by-step path to achieving this ambitious goal. 

A treatment plan outlines a realistic timeline for recovery, acting as a series of milestones on the patient's journey to health. These timeframes, much like checkpoints in a long road trip,  provide the patient with a sense of progress and enable you to adjust the plan as needed. 

In practice, you can recommend the expected frequency of in-person or virtual visits (i.e. twice per week for two weeks during phase one) as well as milestones (i.e. sub-goals) that cascade from the main goal of running a marathon. This is essential because, like in any journey, there can be unexpected bumps or delays in a patient's recovery. 

A clear treatment plan also justifies the treatment approach. For instance, if you recommend that a patient stop running temporarily, they may not immediately understand the reasoning. A treatment plan shows them the big picture and supports why a temporary reduction in running load is necessary, what the plan is to gradually reintroduce it, and how it contributes to their end goal. 

By aligning expectations, providing a realistic timeline, and explaining the reasons behind each step of the process, a treatment plan educates patients and helps them be an active participant in their recovery journey.

2. Provides a Roadmap of the Recovery Process 

Recovery is rarely a linear journey. Patients may encounter setbacks, plateau in their progress, or face unexpected challenges along the way. To effectively navigate these twists and turns, both you and your patients need a comprehensive understanding of the recovery process. A static treatment plan is not suited to a frequently changing, non-linear recovery process. A digital care plan can mitigate these issues as it can be easily updated with the click of a button. 

A treatment plan provides a high-level overview of the recovery process. It's like having a detailed itinerary for a trip, with each day's activities and destinations clearly mapped out. This recovery roadmap, enables you to anticipate potential issues and proactively address them. You can modify the treatment plan as needed, making adjustments to interventions, exercises, or therapies based on your patient's progress and response to treatment to ultimately maximize your patient's chances of a successful recovery. 

Additionally, treatment plans often include Home Exercise Programs (HEPs) and progressions, providing patients with a clear understanding of their responsibilities outside of therapy sessions. A digital care plan has the advantage of being easily accessible on any device, providing nudges or reminders, and enabling remote monitoring of patient progress. This empowers them to actively participate in their recovery, and take ownership of their health.

3. Shifts Patients from Symptom-Oriented to Goal-Oriented Treatment 

In traditional healthcare approaches, the primary focus has often been on alleviating symptoms. While symptom relief is essential, it may not capture the full picture of a patient's recovery journey. Imagine a patient who experiences chronic back pain. Traditional symptom-oriented treatment may aim to reduce the pain level, but it overlooks the patient's larger goal of being able to play with their grandchildren without discomfort. By shifting the focus to the desired outcome, a treatment plan guides both you and your patient toward a comprehensive and meaningful recovery. 

To implement a goal-oriented treatment plan, it’s important to set specific milestones that are meaningful to your patient's daily life. These milestones may involve activities such as walking without pain, lifting objects, or participating in sports or hobbies. By identifying these sub-goals, the treatment plan becomes more personalized, relevant, and engaging for your patient. 

Working towards tangible goals provides a sense of purpose and motivation throughout the recovery process. A goal-oriented treatment plan enables you to tailor interventions and progressions that align with the desired outcomes. It also provides a sense of accomplishment when milestones are achieved. The recovery process is a long journey, so acknowledging and celebrating the small wins along the way helps to keep your patient (and yourself) engaged.

By shifting the focus from symptom reduction to goal achievement, a treatment plan encourages patients to see the bigger picture of their recovery journey. It empowers them to strive for a meaningful outcome and helps therapists deliver patient-centered care that goes beyond mere symptom management.

4. Enhances Consistency and Retention 

Consistency plays a vital role in the success of any treatment plan. Like starting a daily exercise regimen, it's easy to lose motivation or forget to exercise entirely without a clear plan. But with a well-structured program detailing each day's workout, you're far more likely to stick with it. For patients, a treatment plan serves as a constant reminder of their commitment to their health and well-being. It outlines all the elements that need to be followed consistently in order to recover. This structure helps patients develop a routine and integrate their treatment into their daily lives. Just as sticking to a regular exercise regimen yields better results, a recent systematic review showed that patient adherence to a detailed and goal-oriented treatment plan could potentially enhance rehabilitation outcomes.

From the healthcare provider's perspective, a treatment plan ensures consistency in the delivery of care. It provides a framework for the sequence and progression of interventions, ensuring that all necessary components of the treatment are addressed systematically. This consistency enables you to monitor progress, make appropriate adjustments, and track the effectiveness of interventions over time. 

Consider two patients: Patient A and Patient B. Patient A stops attending therapy after only three sessions because their pain has lessened, and it's no longer bothering them in their day-to-day activities. 

In contrast, Patient B continues to attend therapy for another two months until they are back to their functional goal - let's say, playing tennis. They understand that therapy isn't just about alleviating immediate pain, but about achieving a long-term goal. 

Clearly, Patient B's approach is more beneficial in the long run because it promotes resiliency and ensures that all issues identified in the initial assessment were adequately addressed. How often have you had Patient A in your caseload? In many cases, you may not even hear back from them and are left wondering why they dropped off. A well-thought-out and executed treatment plan keeps yourself and your patient accountable. It provides a shared decision-making framework that prevents self-discharge due to a lack of clarity. 

By providing a clear plan and end goal, you're helping to prevent self-discharge and improve patient retention. Plus, you're encouraging your patients to see their treatment as a journey to a healthier life, rather than a quick fix to a temporary problem.

5. Facilitates Communication and Strengthens the Therapeutic Alliance 

A treatment plan serves as a valuable tool to facilitate communication and enhance the bond between you and your patient. When you create a treatment plan with your patient, it becomes a shared reference point and a foundation for communication. It enables both parties to be on the same page regarding the goals, strategies, and progress of their treatment. This shared understanding fosters open dialogue, allowing patients to express their concerns, ask questions, and actively participate in decision-making processes. 

A treatment plan also provides a framework for ongoing discussions and re-assessment during the course of treatment. Regular reviews of the plan allow you to gauge your patient's progress, address any emerging issues, and make necessary adjustments. This continuous communication ensures that the treatment stays aligned with your patient's evolving needs and goals. 

The collaborative nature of a treatment plan also strengthens the therapeutic alliance. When patients see that you are invested in their well-being and have a clear plan for their recovery, trust is built. Patients feel heard, understood, and supported, which leads to increased satisfaction and engagement in the treatment process. 

Interdisciplinary communication can also be enhanced in situations where multiple healthcare professionals are involved in a patient's care. It serves as a common reference point that promotes seamless coordination, reduces miscommunication, and ensures continuity of care across different providers. The added benefit of having a digital care plan, as opposed to paper, is that it can become a collaborative document for all therapists involved in the care of a patient. 

You also know that progress is made between appointments. A digital care plan can help keep clients engaged and accountable by strengthening the therapeutic alliance beyond the clinic. With the advancements in technology, digital care plans have become an invaluable tool for maintaining communication and enhancing patient engagement. 

Through secure in-app messaging systems, patients can easily reach out to you, if you choose, to ask questions, provide updates on their progress, or share any concerns they may have. This fosters a sense of support and accessibility, ensuring that patients feel connected to their healthcare team throughout their recovery journey.

Conclusion 

Embarking on a journey without a map can be an adventurous proposition, but in the world of healthcare, it's a recipe for confusion, inefficiency, and unmet goals. Treatment plans offer a roadmap for the journey toward recovery. They set clear expectations, enhance compliance and retention, shift the focus from symptoms to goals, provide an overview of the recovery process, and foster better communication between you and your patients. 

Just as a seasoned traveler wouldn't set off on a road trip without a well-planned route, you shouldn't embark on a patient's recovery journey without a comprehensive treatment plan. It's the tool that transforms a daunting voyage into a manageable journey, broken down into step-by-step milestones. As healthcare providers, it's our duty to provide our patients with this roadmap, guiding them toward their recovery goals. And remember, the journey matters just as much as the destination. By creating detailed treatment plans, you ensure that your patients are not just passengers on this journey, but active participants, fully engaged in their care. 

To learn more about how digital care plans can transform your practice, visit www.careplan.ai to start creating for free. 

Corey Persic 
Physiotherapist | Co-founder @ Careplan AI 
corey@careplan.ai

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