How to Inspire Your Patients to Improve Health
JOANNA M. HAGAN
Doctor as teacher implies that you must inspire. The most memorable teachers are those that motivated you to change your behavior or thinking. As a practitioner, sometimes the motivating part gets lost in the technical details. Physicians are concerned about non-compliant patients. Part of the role of the physician is to inspire your patients to change their lives so they become passionate about their healing process. So how do you do that? Following are a few tips:
- Communication. As your patient describes to you what is important about why they are visiting you, write down the actual words they use and their phrases. In those phrases will be the key to their motivators. Re-visit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to determine where your patient is. (Survival, safety, belonging, family, self-actualization, aesthetics, etc).
- Eye contact. When you speak to your patient, look the patient right in the eyes. Do not allow them to gaze away from you when you speak to them. This behavior on your part demonstrates to your patient that you are serious about what you are saying and that you believe in them. Your passion for their health must show. This behavior on your part demonstrates the commitment you have to their health and this can be very motivating to a patient.
- Support system. Have your patients’ protocols clearly written in a format that is usable for them and ensure that they understand. If you feel there might be an obstacle to their progress, plan for overcoming that obstacle. Provide a series of substitute behaviors for them to practice to overcome those obstacles. The patient education in some practices is actually done by another party (nurse or a special assistant.) This is something for you to consider. Regular follow-up sessions either by phone or email should be included. Do not allow your patients to be without support. Many of them will not have the personalities to call you if there is an issue or obstacle. Be proactive about your patients’ progress. Some of these activities could be a part of the function of the front desk. It is from this aspect that most of the progress will come. This is the monitoring and feedback loop to ensure progress.
- Progress Demonstration. When a patient comes in for a progress report, show them by graphs or other means the progression of their healing; chart their cholesterol reading over time, their blood sugar levels, or perhaps their improved range of motion. You may even have before, during and after pictures of your patient. This is tangible and powerful reinforcement to them that healing is occurring. If behaviors need modifying, do a progress report and remind the patient of past behaviors/feelings that have been long gone by listing some of the previous complaints that have disappeared (i.e., “You have not reported any panic attacks since June 2004.”) This reminds the patient of their healing journey and how far they have come.
- Share others’ success stories. If your patients have a journal as part of their healing process, ask permission to share their story with others. Instead of having testimonials in your office, have your patient’s journal available for others to read for inspiration (with permission of course). If you have a patient who is into video, have them create a video to document their healing process. Show that video in your waiting room. If you have a website, you might set up a chat room for others to talk about their progress and to have patients support those going through the same process (this needs monitoring). If you do public speaking, set up a panel of patients who can share their healing experiences with others. Their stories can be very powerful and motivating. These activities provide hope to others.
These are just a few things you can do to improve your inspiration factor with your patients. There are many more. Use one or all of them and see if there is more healing. If you inspire your patients they will be your best marketing tool. This is the source of patient referrals. If you have any other ideas, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
JOANNA M. HAGAN was named 2005 Faculty of the Year by the summer graduating class of SCNM and has 30 years of healthcare marketing and finance management experience with her very first job at age 17 as receptionist/manager in an optometrist’s office. She is the current Director of Career Services for the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine College, Tempe, AZ and instructor of all SCNM practice management courses. She offers individualized success coaching to SCNM students and alumni. Since 1991, her passion and mission in life is to change healthcare as it is delivered in the United States so it is more effective and efficient. She is an Honors graduate from the University of Connecticut with a Biology/Education degree and Honors graduate in Masters of Healthcare Management at the University of Phoenix. She also has extensive Masters Studies in Marketing and Finance at Governor’s State University, IL. Currently she is a candidate for Fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) and the MGMA.