Patient Reluctance: A Motivator to Seek Alternatives to Surgery

Imagine being a pain management doctor recommending surgery to a patient living with degenerative disk disease. You believe her case epitomizes the very types of conditions for which back surgery is intended. For whatever reason, she rejects your recommendation and opts for alternative treatments instead. Would that frustrate you?


Patient reluctance to undergo invasive procedures is not rare. From open heart surgery to joint replacement, invasive procedures are commonly offered and rejected. How frequently it happens isn’t exactly clear because raw data is lacking. But it happens often enough that doctors talk about it as though it is a regular occurrence.


Possible Contributing Factors


We know that patient reluctance toward invasive procedures is a motivator to seek alternative treatments. But what’s behind the reluctance? What motivates a patient to turn down something like back surgery, despite daily pain?


KindlyMD is a Utah medical group specializing in Utah Medical Cards, plant-based medicines, medication management, and more. The group operates multiple clinics throughout the state. They offer the following reasons as possible contributing factors to patient reluctance:


  • Fears relating to anesthesia and recovery.
  • Anxiety about the procedure itself.
  • Lack of confidence in insurance coverage.
  • The desire for more time to think about it.
  • The desire to seek a second opinion.


A majority of KindlyMD’s patients seek out healthcare services to manage persistent pain. Some of them prefer to avoid surgery because they are afraid it could make them feel worse. They are anxious enough about surgery that they would rather go the alternative medicine route.


A Lack of Understanding or Information


There are times when patients are reluctant to try invasive procedures due to a lack of knowledge or understanding. They might think differently if they had more concrete information about the procedure and its effectiveness.


The thing is that a lack of information contributes to a lack of understanding. And when patients don’t understand the procedures that they are being offered, it’s natural for them to fear those procedures. Such fear is just an extension of the more common fear of the unknown.


Interestingly, the same level of fear does not seem to apply to alternative treatments. Patients do not tend to exhibit the same level of fear when a KindlyMD provider recommends plant-based medicine. So there is something to be said about the level of invasiveness and the amount of fear a patient expresses.


What Reluctant Patients Are Looking For


All of this leads to an obvious question: what are patients reluctant about invasive procedures looking for? It would seem they are looking for treatments that are both effective and as safe as possible. Patients want the best combination of efficacy and limited risks. They start imagining going under the scalpel and fear takes hold.


It doesn’t help that so many people know friends and family members who have had terrible experiences with invasive procedures. I personally know several people who have undergone knee or hip replacement surgeries. None of them have anything good to say about the procedures. To a person, they all say they would never do it again.


One of the alternatives people seek is plant-based medicine. Other alternatives include regenerative medicine (stem cell and PRP therapies), acupuncture, psychotherapy, chiropractic, and even massage and aromatherapy when pain is the main symptom.


Every alternative therapy has its supporters and detractors. But the same holds true for invasive procedures. In the end, a certain amount of reluctance about invasive procedures drives some people to alternative treatments. That is their prerogative. People have the right to make their own healthcare decisions as they see fit. That’s the way it should be.

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