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Improve the health system one question at a time by Kathryn Dwan

19 March 2019

I’ve always been one to ask questions. I spent my early childhood bombarding my poor mother with questions. My fellow uni students would hold their breath at the end of class when the lecturer would ask “Any questions?” I have even been accused of being “insufficiently deferent” simply because I ask questions. Undeterred, I continue to ask questions to this day and I find it serves me well.

Last October I underwent surgery for that first-world problem known as skier’s thumb. Having been in a small hand splint for three months, I wasn’t keen to be given a full splint after surgery. I also knew that the question I wanted to ask was first on the list of 5 questions to ask your doctor or other healthcare provider. So, in the pre-op room I asked my surgeon if it was really necessary for me to have the long splint, she had described during our previous consultation.

She paused, discussed the anatomy and biomechanics with the assistant surgeon, and considered my previous impeccable record of doing my physio exercises. “I don’t see why not!” was her answer. “I’ll make a note on your record.”

All went well and a pleasant surprise awaited me at the final consultation with my surgeon. She told me that my question had prompted her to rethink her post-operative management plan, and it was no longer her standard practice to put all patients into a long splint. She particularly wanted me to know that she listens to consumers because there is much to learn.

Not only is my range of movement almost as good as its pre-injured state and my packet of EndoneTM remains unopened, but a medical doctor acknowledged the value of consumer feedback.

Go ahead and improve the health system one question at a time!


By Dr Kathryn Dwan, Manager, Research & Policy, Health Care Consumers’ Association

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