The Importance of Medical Assurance

The healthcare industry increasingly relies on technology in treating patients.  But there is one component of recovery which technology cannot replace, and that is medical assurance.  This is the ability of a healthcare provider to convey a comforting bedside manner and relieve the fears and worries of their patients.

Medical assurance often takes only a few extra minutes of a provider’s time.

If medical providers take a few extra minutes, this is often all it takes to provide effective medical assurance.  Many healthcare professionals recommend that the providers simply express empathy to patients.  This means that providers should listen to their patients and reflect back to the patients what they have heard: that the providers understand that the patients must be worried and that it is normal to feel anxiety or to be scared.

Providers should carefully tailor the assurance to a patient’s specific needs.

This does not mean that providers should not plan a strategy for medical assurance which is specific to each patient.  Inappropriate assurance can actually have a damaging effect or impede a patient's recovery.  Medical providers should have a good understanding of the applicable symptoms, the patients' understanding of those symptoms, and a plan as to how best explain those symptoms to the patient.

Affective reassurance vs. cognitive reassurance

There are different categories of medical assurance as well.  Affective reassurance means that the provider is creating rapport and showing empathy to a patient.  This method of reassurance may be more temporary.

Testing as a flawed substitute for medical assurance

Unfortunately, many providers attempt to take shortcuts in providing medical reassurance or fail to provide any reassurance at all.  Some providers will refer their patients for testing, relying on a mechanical procedure to alleviate the patients’ concerns about what might be ailing them.

This methodology is flawed in several respects.  First of all, many patients can be effectively reassured even without additional testing.  Second of all, test results can be inaccurate or faulty.  Some doctors rely on test results to prove to their patients that everything is fine, but even highly accurate tests can be wrong or result in false positives.

Testing as medical assurance can have the opposite effect

Consequently, testing as a means to provide reassurance can have the opposite effect.  Patients often experience increased anxiety while waiting for the testing procedure and then waiting for the test results.  Then if the test reveals a positive result, more testing will follow, which may or may not deliver false positive data.  And with these tests, the patients must often incur additional costs and financial burdens in addition to their existing anxiety.

Providers will sometimes bypass true medical assurance in an attempt to avoid liability.

Ordering tests is often the quickest and easiest option for medical providers, but providing proper medical assurance often takes only a few more minutes spent with the patients.  This medical assurance also promotes healing, increases satisfaction and reduces lawsuits, but many providers still fail to provide this important component of treatment.  Unfortunately, providers today are increasingly drawn towards the easier approach to simply order more tests, under the pressure to meet satisfaction survey standards and avoid lawsuits or any other liability.

MUPS as a substitute for medical assurance

For another example, some doctors, when confronted with symptoms that they cannot explain, simply label them as “MUPS,” or medically unexplained physical symptoms.  These symptoms might not arise from a physical problem, but from an emotional or mental one instead.  Some doctors believe that a mental health assessment should be a required component of the standard physical examination.  But because of the social stigma against mental illness, some patients will refrain from being evaluated from a mental health perspective, and will therefore not receive an accurate diagnosis for their symptoms.

Studies have shown that medical assurance is less effective with MUPS patients.  Some practitioners believe that the best course for these patients is to receive a referral to a mental health provider, to search for possible causes for the symptoms that a physical examination did not reveal.  The message appears to be that medical assurance works best when speculation as to the cause of the symptoms is reduced or eliminated.

Proper medical assurance is better for both providers and patients

Again, studies have shown that it takes only a few additional minutes for providers to deliver effective medical assurance to their patients.  Medical assurance is a healing strategy that providers can employ together with their other treatment tools, and can be extremely effective when properly tailored to meet specific patients’ needs.