In this era of patient-centered care, motivating patients to take charge of their health care is more important than ever. Patients who take a more active role in managing their health are more likely to stick to treatment plans and often experience an improved quality of life.
This five-step guide will help you how to promote patient independence and teach patients how to become more autonomous.
1. Emphasize Partnership
For years, patients were told exactly what to do by healthcare providers, having little input in their own treatment plan. But times have changed, and we now realize how important it is for doctors, nursing staff and other team members to work closely with the patient to develop a plan of care.
Explaining the benefits of partnership is an important first step that will help patients become more comfortable with this new approach. Benefits include:
- Better outcomes
- Fewer hospitalizations
- Improved relationships with providers
- Improved satisfaction with medical treatment
2. Use Motivational Interviewing
Motivational interviewing can empower patients to make changes to improve their health. With this technique patients are asked a series of open-ended questions that allow them to express their fears and concerns. During the interview, staff members share information as well as provide support and encouragement.
The DARN CAT mnemonic makes it easy to remember the key aspects of motivational interviewing:
- Desire: Why do you want to make a change?
- Ability: How do you think you can make the change?
- Reasons: What three benefits will you realize when you make the change?
- Need: How important is this change?
- Commitment: What can you do to commit to the change?
- Activation: What will you do to make the change and when do you plan on starting?
- Taking steps: What changes have you already made?
3. Provide Useful Information
Some patients are enthusiastic to read anything they can about their disease or condition, while others will throw away brochures on their way out the door. Provide links to online videos, publications and printed materials to ensure patients receive information in several different formats.
Make sure your patients have the right information. The internet is full of “experts” from whom your patients may receive inaccurate (and sometimes dangerous) misinformation. It’s great when your patients are proactive about their care, but their sources should be valid.
4. Make It Easy
When patients are first given a voice in the management of their care, they may be more likely to tell you what they think you want to hear. For example, during a motivational interview, an overweight patient may say they will start an intense diet and exercise program that would be difficult for even the most physically fit person to follow.
SMART goals are typically applied to business objectives, but they can also be used in health care. Encouraging patients to start with goals that are easily reachable, such as walking 30 minutes a day, can help them feel empowered when they obtain those goals. Once initial goals are met, new goals can be created.
5. Address Barriers
Barriers, whether physical or psychological, can make it difficult for patients to accomplish their goals. Ask a few open-ended questions about possible barriers, including cultural issues that may make it more difficult for patients to carry out their goals.
For example, natural medicine may be an important part of a particular culture. If patients seem reluctant to take a medication because of this cultural belief, mentioning they can continue to use natural medicine (if it’s not harmful) in addition to taking a prescribed medication can help overcome barriers.
Promoting independence is a crucial aspect of helping your patients manage their conditions and avoid setbacks. Learning these valuable skills requires a new way of thinking about health, but most patients will happily embrace self-management techniques with a little help from your staff.Looking for more ways to improve patient satisfaction? Read The Ultimate Patient Satisfaction Checklist for Nurse Managers.