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Melon Health Blog

How To Engage Patients To Self Activate

Posted by Siobhan Bulfin on Jul 17, 2019 3:58:36 PM

Care plan non-adherence creates monumental challenges for US health care. Estimated costs have grown to over $13 billion each year as patients who don’t adhere to their care plan need extra hospitalizations and costly procedures. Every year over 100,000 deaths can be traced back to this one issue.

Both clinicians and patients experience the consequences of non-adherence. More often than not, the care plan is verbal advice imparted by the Clinician during a patient visit. If under case management - that care care plan may be a printed document provided to the patient. It’s unsurprising therefore that patients don’t follow through. Patients need to be able to self-activate themselves to engage in their health and they need their providers to give them the tools to do so. 

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Here are several ways to improve patient engagement and care plan compliance:

Slow and steady

Over the course of a lifetime, social determinants of health, environment, and community all contribute to lifestyles that lead to chronic illness. The factors that surround and influence them could be the reason why non-adherence among patients with chronic illness is estimated to be anywhere from 50-80 percent

When patients think of lifestyle change, however, it’s easy to assume that habits, formed over the course of years, need to change overnight. But that’s not realistic. Habits that have been solidified over time need to be deconstructed over time. 

That’s why patients with a chronic illness need an approach that slowly and steadily helps them adjust their lifestyle. This approach will gradually orient them toward healthy choices like increased exercise and good food choices. 

The challenge is that we’re all different, and different patients face different barriers to change. 

Take, for instance, a patient’s diet. Each patient can face a variety of hindrances when adjusting their food choices. Some may have limited access to education about diet, while others may be limited by financial constraints. Still others may find it difficult to eat right because the benefits don’t seem to outweigh the cost.

How motivational interviewing helps enable patient engagement

This is why incorporating motivational interviewing into a patient’s care plan can be a helpful step on the path to self-engagement. Patients need help acknowledging and resolving their barriers to change—whether emotional, mental or physical. 

Motivational interviewers guide patients to self-discovery by asking questions. As patients answer these questions, they begin to detect what has kept them from changing in the past and realize what small changes they can make in the present.

Small changes can result in big motivation

The first small steps in behavior change are actually big steps toward a better quality of life. Here’s why: as patients start to succeed with minor lifestyle adjustments, their motivation naturally grows. Gradually, they’ll begin to believe they can change.

These initial small-scale changes set patients up for their next goals in behavior change. The result over the long term is that clinicians won’t have to constantly try to motivate patients. Instead, they can help continue to educate and nurture whole-person care one patient at a time.

Reliable support 

Education is meaningless if patients aren’t motivated to act on their knowledge. That’s why patients need reliable support that’s available anytime, anywhere.

Activating hope-givers

Whether dealing with mental health issues, comorbidities, or other non-complex chronic illnesses, it’s well known that peers can play a huge role in behavioral change. One of the primary roles peer groups can fill is that of a hope-giver. 

As patients see others making progress with similar conditions, they often start to believe they can change, too. In addition, if they hit a plateau with their goals, peer groups can help them troubleshoot and find solutions. 

Another benefit is that peers can help dispel myths about chronic conditions. They can help educate each other about their conditions and inspire one another to cultivate their own knowledge with online resources. 

All this leads to a compounding effect of growth and hope among peers. This leads to improved patient conditions and the prevention of chronic illness.

Health insights

With all the data tracking capabilities in technology, clinicians and health coaches can also help patients view their condition’s “big picture.” Clinicians can utilize specific data from patients to help engage them in conversations about current habits and new goals. Patients, on the other hand, can see their progress at a glance, adding fuel to their resolve.

Incremental education

By viewing patient education as a long-term process, health coaches and clinicians are able to space teaching opportunities out over longer periods of time. People, after all, can only take in so many details at one time and we often forget much of we learn from firehose methods of education.

This means that health coaches may need to structure patient education differently. It also means that they can provide patients with specific action steps at the end of each brief teaching opportunity. Because of this strategy, patients will be better able to retain information and implement each step of their wellness plan. 

In addition, health coaches can tweak educational materials to fit a patient’s current need. For instance, weight loss plateaus in patients with diabetes will require different guidance than patients dealing with symptoms of depression. 

Easy to understand

Many people living with chronic illnesses face comorbidities or mental health conditions that make it difficult for them to adhere to yet another care plan. Too much information can be overwhelming. Basic education introduced over time in simple language can help people understand their condition and how to manage it.

If clinicians and health coaches can make complex conditions easier to understand, patients will then be better able to act upon their care plans. In the end, they’ll be able to follow through on their care plans and improve the self-management of their conditions. 

Discover how to enable your patients to self-manage their own care. Download the 5 Steps to Enable Supported Self-Management.

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Topics: patient engagement, peer support, patient community, behavior change

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