Having patients stick to a prescribed life-style change can be frustrating. Humans don’t like change, which includes you and I. However, the research shows that life-style recommendations will get through to your patients eventually. So I made a list of important tips to help your suggestions stick. I also included a motivator to help you avoid becoming disillusioned:
1) Always provide a hand-out. Try and hand write patient-specific recommendations on the “prescription” and always include an appropriate referral (e.g. nutritionist referral for cardiovascular ill-health). Try the website http://www.health.gov.au/lifescripts and have some of the most frequently used pages at the ready to hand out. Have the information of local providers attached. This can have the added benefit of encouraging mutual referrals between you and other health professionals.
2) Repeat your recommendations. At every subsequent appointment try and repeat your “prescription”. To avoid becoming frustrated and having the patient feel badgered, ask the patient to invent a solution that would make it easier for them to comply. Engaging patients in their own care makes them more accountable and more likely to apply the change.
3) Recommend one area of change at a time. For example, if you want a patient to lose weight, speak about dietary changes first and perhaps exercise changes next time. This will also help reduce the feeling that you are putting a resistant patient offside. Changing your recommendations will assist a patient enter into a regular conversation about their many options. Repeated talk about change can actually make it more likely to happen.
4) Recommend small changes. If a patient has a smoking habit ask them to try and reduce their smoking by one cigarette per day, rather than moving straight to nicotine patches (if appropriate considering their immediate risk). This will help both you and your patient avoid feeling like you have failed in implementing these recommendations.
5) Ask them to involve a friend or family member. If a patient is struggling to start making the changes you have suggested, ask them to have a friend or family member join them with the change. Try letting your patient know that as part of your prescription for life-style change that they need to talk to a friend of family member. This will also help a conversation begin outside of your practice so you are getting support from others that are involved in their care.
Do you have any ideas that have worked for you? Let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org