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New Ways to Help Your Patients Comply with Medical Instructions

By Lisa Mulcahy, via Mutibriefs

Every doctor has to deal with a difficult, frustrating fact: some patients simply don't follow their recommendations properly. Obviously, this situation is worrisome in that it can lead to adverse outcomes, hospitalizations and drug interactions.

There's good news, though: researchers have been looking into innovative ways for physicians to encourage more convenient compliance. Try these fresh, proven tips to help your patients more effectively focus on participating in their own care:

Change how you talk about care plans.

When you discover a patient isn't taking his or her medication as you've instructed, it can be very tempting to ask, "What is the matter with you?"

Instead of that phrasing, which can feel accusatory to a patient, try asking, "What matters to you most about the care you're receiving?", so that you glean information about why the patient is resisting his/her meds (Do they cause unpleasant side effects? Do they taste bad?).

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that engaging ICU patients with questions about their feelings concerning their treatments enhanced their adherence to post-care plans.

Allow your patient to explain that factors, such as being able to clearly understand how to take a medication or avoiding side effects matter most, then work with the patient to address these important concerns so they will feel clear and comfortable managing their necessary prescriptions.

Use technology to your advantage.

A British study found that young adults with chronic conditions are highly likely not to follow care instructions, and often stop going to their doctors entirely, leading to worsening of their health problems.

The researchers discovered, however, that when these patients are allowed to communicate with their physicians through texting, email or Skype, they did comply with recommended care, and could easily manage their conditions.

Check with your providing organization regarding any policy or ethical guidelines regarding digital communication; when you get the all-clear, talk through these options with patients you feel would benefit from them, stressing the fact that technology-based conversation between the two of you will make their care clearer and more convenient.

Bust myths in the media.

The Public Health Research & Practice journal has reported that more and more patients today believe inaccurate medical news they read online, leading them to avoid essential care measures such as vaccinating their children.

If you have a patient who's resistant to take your advice because they've read or heard misleading counter-information, sit down with him/her, and ask him/her to outline exactly what scares them.

Often their fears will be based on vague information that you can easily counter by showing them facts from reputable websites. You can use your computer to do this in real-time.

Never minimize or judge their concerns; instead, commiserate by stating how confusing it can be to everyone because of the fact that there is so much inaccurate info available. Stress that you, as a doctor, have the training and experience to advise them accurately, and that your patient can trust you completely.

Build a team of helpers.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, through the National Poll on Healthy Aging, report that seniors taking multiple medications daily rarely, if ever, address questions about drug interactions to their doctors; further statistics from the poll found that only 21 percent of older patients feel very confident they know they are taking their medications the right way.

Involve your senior patients’ family members, caregivers, pharmacists and specialists if you suspect this patient isn't taking their medications correctly. These helpers can help you double-check multiple dosages, make certain they aren't drinking alcohol with a prescription or eating foods that would cause an interaction, and set daily times at which the patient should take their meds in the prescribed combinations.

Ask for confirmation.

At the close of every appointment, request that your patient repeats back to you all of the care plan instructions you've laid out for them, so you're sure they clearly understand exactly what they need to do.

Clear up any mistaken ideas they have in terms of your instructions, and stress the importance of calling to ask any questions they have once they get home. Maintaining a positive, non-judgmental dialogue will make your patients feel completely comfortable following your instructions, and keep them on the road to better health.

Lisa Mulcahy is an internationally established health writer whose credits include the Los Angeles Times. Redbook, Glamour, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Health, Good Housekeeping, Parde and Seventeen.

 

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