Are You the Block in Your Patient Compliance?
James Maskell is CEO of Revive NYC
Without patient compliance, a Naturopathic physician, no matter how honed their clinical skills, has virtually no chance of helping a patient get well. Whether it be drinking more water, remembering to take their protocol, or avoiding certain foods, inspiring patients to want to change chronic patterns is key in unlocking chronic cases.
- So, why do patients comply?
- What needs to be in place for optimum patient compliance?
- Are we spending enough time honing this valuable skill?
The Blueprint for Incredible Patient Compliance
For the patient to understand why you are recommending certain courses of action, it is crucial for them to understand their big “WHY?” This is crucial, as if you can stimulate the why, the how, and what take care of themselves.
Educating your patient, including how their body works/heals, why they have the symptoms they do, and how your interventions can help is crucial to this process.
Patient education in natural medicine until now had mostly been communicated one-on-one in a clinical setting. This approach might not be quite as efficient and can be a huge time suck. A number of very practical ways can improve this process:
• Patient advocate
• New-patient group orientation events
• Consistent, engaging literature to take home
• E-newsletter and blog
• Sharing or creating information products (webinars, etc)
• Other professionals’ content (movies, information, etc)
Draw it Out of the Patient
The skill of asking intelligent questions should be a baseline skill for any health professional. It has been lost in modern allopathy, where the doctor listens for just enough time to anchor symptoms to a disease.
Given that the majority of healing occurs during the hours when your patient isn’t in your office, it is likely that a draconian or fear-based approach to patient compliance will fall flat. “Do this! Don’t do that, ya’ hear!” Patients need to be inspired to assure compliance when no one else is watching. So how do you do this?
- Identify patient goals (be specific).
- Tie together clearly how your recommendations will help to reach that goal.
- Be clear as to what is expected of both parties (and why!).
- Leave every appointment with agreement.
Make it Easy
As someone who grew up on classical homeopathy, I am more aware of the mint/coffee/food rules than anyone. I have 5 years experience of chalky fennel toothpaste to show for it. Homeopathy or not, as a general rule, it is better to empower patients to be consistent than to have them be paralyzed with fear over what they can’t do 15 minutes either side of their remedies.
Other ways to make it easy:
- Provide a clear, easy-to-understand protocol sheet.
- Deliver it in a format they will use (Paper, digital, and so forth).
- Find out how they remind themselves of other events and use that.
- Modern cell phones, alarms, and apps can provide good support.
- Identify potential compliance blockages and deal with them ahead of time.
Who has heard the phrase: “I got some gas, and so I stopped taking everything”? Especially for patients new to this type of medicine, a follow up phone call or e-mail 2-3 days into the program is crucial. Not only does it give much needed support to the patient, but also it is typically in this time period where the protocol kicks in. If the patient correlates any symptom with bad, you may lose them that early without adequate followup.
Structured correctly, these sessions need not be more than 5 minutes.
- Share appreciation for them taking positive steps on their journey.
- Ask open-ended questions at the start “What positive signs have you seen thus far?” or “How is your water intake/sleep/elimination/and so on?”
- Ask further questions and reaffirm agreements.
- Guide them to next steps with alternate choice questions.
Overcome Financial Objections
Throughout the years, I have met many naturopaths who have felt uncomfortable with the financial aspects of their practice. I’m sure we would all prefer not to have to deal with them. But if we really want the naturopathic approach to spread, we need to, as a profession, become a lot better at this part of the business.
Addressing your financial management with an attitude of identifying needs and providing solutions is crucial, and having a mindset of confidence is also very important, as one way or another, you are transferring your feelings about it to your patients. You don’t want to give them an opportunity to interpret your lack of confidence wrongly.
Those NDs who struggle with this could be doing so for any number of reasons, but here are some good ways to become unblocked.
- Practice and role play the checkout process with an empathetic friend.
- Learn how to ask alternate choice questions.
- Put value on the services of other professionals (time to stop doing your own bookkeeping!).
- Take time to get clarity over your own feelings about money.
There are plenty of people out there teaching how to have a successful mindset, so learn from them or find a mentor. In my estimation, such is the importance of compliance toward successful results in your clinical practice. This should be an area of keen focus for every dedicated health professional.
Also remember, if all of your patients feel a certain way about something, there is a good chance that the common thread is you. Make sure the feelings that you are transferring are mutually beneficial; otherwise, you might unwillingly be the block in your patients’ compliance.
James Maskell is CEO of Revive NYC, a Brooklyn-based digital media, practice development, and branding company that helps holistic practitioners bring their message to life. To connect with Revive, please visit: www.revivenyc.com.