Fostering Patient Compliance

William R. Pupkis, CMPE, Healthcare Consultant

Patient-ComplianceThere are as many reasons why patients don’t follow your instructions as there are patients.  Your role is to provide a trusting, cooperative atmosphere that encourages patients to become partners in their treatment process.  Some of the most difficult instructions for patients to follow are those that involve changes in their lifestyle or habits.  Draw information out of your patients, rather than just direct information at them.  Based on the information you glean, you can teach patients how to participate in improving their own health.

1. Ask open-ended questions

The more you understand your patient, the better you can help him or her.  Each patient has a different set of ideas, beliefs, and principles and if you understand what they are, you can adapt your instructions to the individual.

2. Educate your patients

The goal of educating patients is to help them see the benefits of following your recommendations.  Remember that patients learn in different ways.  Some learn best from example, others through independent reading and study, and others through oral teaching or visual aids.

3. Identify expectations early

Help your patients identify goals and learn how to meet them.  When patients understand their condition and feel part of the solution, there are more likely to follow your advice.

4. Avoid information overload

Try to speak in terms the patient can understand and avoid technical or medical jargon and acronyms.  With multiple protocols or instructions, give the patient preprinted instructions.  Make sure everything is clear before the patient leaves your office and let them know you are available to answer any questions that may come up later.

5. Encourage your patients

If patients demonstrate anxiety or fear about an upcoming procedure, offer reassurance, but be careful not to deny his or her concerns.  For example, saying, “Oh, it’s not as bad as you think,” might make the patient feel disregarded.  Instead, validate the patient’s feelings by saying, “I understand how difficult this is for you, but I think together we can overcome it.”

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