A False Belief in Orthopedic Patient Communication

False belief in patient communication

There’s a great psychological study that goes something like this: a child is given a box of candy. When they open the box, they find something else inside—pencils, erasers, or some other useful objects with one common flaw – they are definitely not candy. The psychologist explains to the disappointed child that she’s about to give the same candy box to another child. She says to the first child, “When I give this box to Jimmy, what do you think he’ll think is in the box?”

Overwhelmingly, the response is “pencils”.

The study proves what’s called the “false belief” bias: an inability to see a situation from another person’s perspective. And while the false belief test is primarily used as a benchmark in childhood development, it has adult/professional manifestations.

Consider a different study, this one published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, which found that 75% of orthopedic surgeons believed that they communicated with the patients in a “satisfactory” way. The orthopedic patients disagreed, however; only 21% reported satisfactory communication. The surgeons, in short, expected the patients to find pencils.

That same paper reveals that most orthopedic surgeons will conduct 100,000 medical interviews during their career, which means that there could be an awful lot of confused patients out there. The paper stresses the importance of communication skills in patient-centered care (in an era before the Affordable Care Act and Meaningful Use, no less) and correctly identifies some of the central challenges of patient engagement in orthopedics—namely providing follow-up for a range of specific conditions and communicating with diverse patient populations.

Here’s where a well thought-out patient communication strategy with a strong technological backbone can make a difference. Automated patient engagement can send follow-up care information, recalls, procedure preparation instructions, links to information about conditions and care plans, and much more.


More from Patient Prompt
Supporting Essential Orthopedic Follow-up Care through Automation
The Payoff of Preventative Care in Orthopedics
Reaching Those Hard-to-Reach Patients


Patient Prompt works closely with thousands of providers in orthopedic specialty practices to address patient engagement.

Midwest Orthopedic in Illinois—which specializes in arthroscopy, fractures, joint replacements, muscoskeletal disorders, sports medicine, foot and ankle reconstruction, and arthritis—had difficulty delivering unique messaging for patients. They had a high no-show rate and overbooked to try to compensate. But Patient Prompt solved that, using five different types of messages and three means of communication to help patients understand that the practice was sensitive to their unique needs. No-shows dropped, and overbooking stopped completely. Click here for the case study.

Or consider the case of OrthoMaryland, which had a more basic problem. They had too many missed appointments, which meant that practitioners weren’t seeing patients. Which meant they weren’t earning. OrthoMaryland was manually calling patients, and automating their appointment reminder system drove revenues up. Click here for the case study.

Automated patient reminder systems address the challenges of diverse populations, too, reaching out to patients in their preferred language of communication—even if staff at the practice don’t speak it. Anything that helps patients feel more included in their care helps orthopedic practices, too. Engaged patients will come better prepared for procedures, will ask educated questions, and will become active participants in their own care.

Butler Health System’s Orthopedic Center in Pennsylvania certainly found this to be true. After adopting a patient engagement system (including a patient portal), Butler Health found that the pre-op was smoother and that 100% of patients felt either very or somewhat prepared for surgery because they could involve family members in their interactive care program.

Clever patient engagement that uses technology to automate processes can be the foundation of a comprehensive follow-up care plan, too; appointment reminders are key to follow-ups, but the same technology can be used to deliver helpful recovery information or medication reminders.

It all adds up to an engaged patient population and a higher standard of care.

One of our account managers would be happy to give you a complimentary online presentation to show how Patient Prompt can help you and assess your specific needs. Schedule a presentation now!