According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, noncompliance with treatment plans and instructions costs more than $10 million in unnecessary medical interventions every year. Patients fail to adhere to the treatment instructions from their health care providers for many reasons — cost, time, lack of understanding — but the result is that outcomes are not always as good as they can be.
With changes in the health care laws leading to a greater emphasis on quality outcomes, it’s more important than ever for providers to seek compliance from patients. There are a number of ways to go about doing that.

10 – Focus on Positive Outcomes

While sharing what will happen if a patient chooses not to follow instructions can certainly be a motivator, most people respond to positive reinforcement. Telling them how much better they will feel, talking about the activities they can do and focusing on the positives are more likely to be effective than a litany of dire consequences.

09 – Get Backup From Colleagues

In some cases, a noncompliant patient needs to hear instructions from more than one person to believe them. Most of the time, it’s not a case of the patient doubting your competence or authority; they simply need reinforcement from multiple sources. Ask a colleague to back you up. If the patient is still resistant, a fresh perspective can also help you find new solutions.

08 – Offer Choices When Possible

Some patients resist their provider’s recommendations because they feel they are relinquishing control. To help them feel more in control of their treatment and health, offer choices when possible. For example, if you are prescribing an exercise regimen, provide a list of acceptable activities so the patient can choose which ones he or she wants to do.

07 – Develop a Dialogue to Determine Barriers

Before developing a treatment plan, talk with the patient and ask questions to determine if there are any barriers to compliance. Maybe he or she has a busy schedule, or has to take three different buses to get to the doctor’s office. Understanding the barriers before creating a treatment plan and working around them can increase the likelihood of compliance.

06 – Connect Patients With Resources, Like Transportation, When Necessary

Overcoming barriers to treatment often involves connecting patients with the necessary resources, such as transportation, financial help and specialists. Learn about the available programs in your area to help patients access medical care. Be prepared to offer information and assistance when needed.

05 – Establish Trust

Would you accept advice or instructions from someone you don’t trust? If your patients do not trust you, then they won’t listen to what you have to say and will not follow instructions. From the first meeting with a patient, take steps to gain their trust. Listen to them, ask questions and show an interest in what they have to say, even when you are rushed. Pay attention to small details, and use that information to show the patient that you understand and want to help.

04 – Provide Written Instructions

Providing written instructions that echo what you share verbally can keep patients on track and serve as a reminder of what they are to do. Sometimes noncompliance comes from forgetting a step or incorrectly remembering the steps. Written instructions help provide reminders and clarity.

03 – Acknowledge Success

Everyone appreciates praise and having their hard work acknowledged. Knowing that progress is being made can keep a patient on track. Take a moment to offer encouragement and celebrate when appropriate.

02 – Use a Step-by-Step Approach to Ease the Client Into Treatment

When you began studying for a nursing degree, a nursing degree, Nursing Education MSN or other health care degree, you didn’t cover everything you needed to know in the first days and weeks of class. So why would you expect a patient to take on an entire treatment plan at once? To encourage compliance, take a step-by-step approach to explaining and implementing treatment.

01 – Follow Up

Finally, one of the best ways to gain compliance is to follow up. A simple phone call a few days after starting treatment provides patients with the opportunity to ask questions, give feedback or share concerns — and if he or she knows you’ll be calling to check on them, they will most likely follow through on your instructions.
In some cases, patients will not be compliant, no matter how convincing or trustworthy their provider is. However, by implementing these effective tips into your care routines, you can improve the likelihood of compliance — and positive outcomes.

About the Author: Jennifer Flanders is a nurse educator who has nearly two decades of experience. She blogs about nursing best practices and issues for several nursing related sites.

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