As healthcare professionals, one of the biggest challenges that we face is helping our chronically ill patients to manage their illnesses. It’s true that there are steps we can take to help them get healthy and stay healthy, but when it comes to compliance, we can only do as much as the patient allows. Once we offer professional guidance, it is up to them to take their medication and follow the doctor’s orders. Therefore, the approach we take when we prescribe treatment that has to be self-administered is critical if we want to help our patients manage their chronic illnesses.
These four strategies might help you increase your patients’ compliance and give them the tools they need to live healthy, happy lives.
Help Your Patients Set Goals
You might think that a non-compliant patient doesn’t have any goals related to their illness. However, it could be that the goals that are most important to them aren’t the same as those that you think are the most pressing. Patients are more likely to take action if they think that they are working toward solving a problem that they see affecting their lives, so start the conversation by asking them what they see as the most important part of managing their illness.
This is not to say that you should abandon your goals for your patients. But by starting with your patients’ concerns, you can give them your thoughts within the context of their concerns. Once you both understand the other’s position, then you can develop a collaborative goal.
Empower Your Patients through Education
For chronically ill patients, education is paramount to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If they don’t know that certain behaviors are bad for them, they cannot avoid those behaviors. However, education is not as simple as lecturing your patients when they come to see you. Your patients need to feel that what they are learning is relevant to their situation. If it doesn’t seem relevant to their concerns about their health, then it won’t sink in.
Encourage Your Patients to Develop Healthy Habits
When speaking to your patients about developing healthy habits, it’s best to start small. For instance, if you have a patient who needs to lose 20 pounds, you might be tempted to say so and send them on their way. However, if you can better understand why your patient is overweight, to begin with, you will be in a better position to give them diet and exercise advice. Perhaps they aren’t able to exercise because they have pain in their knees. If you didn’t know that, then telling them to exercise more wouldn’t do any good.
Give Your Patients the Responsibility
The bottom line is that your chronically ill patients need to be invested in their health to manage their illnesses effectively. You can’t do much without effort from the patient. But the fact that the patient came to see you in the first place is evidence that they do want to get better. What you need to do is give them the responsibility to care for themselves by guiding them in terms of their own goals and priorities.
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