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Ways to Encourage Your Patients to Make Better Health Choices

Ways to Encourage Your Patients to Make Better Health Choices

One of the most challenging aspects of medical care is helping patients make lasting lifestyle changes. It’s one thing to tell a patient what to do, but another to help them succeed in changing their behavior for the long term.

Instead of feeling frustrated about non-compliance, use proven behavioral science techniques to encourage cooperative behavior in your patients. Support your patient and their family when they make positive health care decisions that are consistent with their needs. Try the following steps to impact your patients’ health positively.

Therapy techniques will help you become a better doctor

The methods used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) have been used in medical settings and studied for decades. The key premise of the model is encouraging positive behaviors and decreasing harmful ones. By rewarding your patients for making healthier food and lifestyle choices, you can help them make lasting health changes.

Expand your influence outside the treatment room

Research shows that physician-patient communication improves health outcomes, enhances patient satisfaction, and increases treatment compliance. Once you determine the target behavior that needs to change, use this personal connection to make a difference and create a way to track it.

Most patients can easily describe the biggest challenges or triggers that they face. For one patient, it might be avoiding sugary drinks, but another might need to cut back on salt.

Determine the ABCs - Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence

ABA therapy uses a three-step process to change behaviors, represented in the acronym ABC. Antecedents, more commonly known as triggers, are the events that happen just before a behavior occurs. Consequences are the result of a particular behavior. Imagine you have a diabetic patient who can’t limit sweets when attending a Christmas party. The party food is the antecedent, while the resulting behavior is eating too much sugar. The consequence is high and uncontrolled blood sugar.

Understanding how antecedent, behavior, and consequence interact can help you better serve your patients and impact their decisions.

Break it down with this example

ABA therapists use three steps – the “A-B-Cs” – to understand and encourage different behavior with rewards. The model is so widespread and ingrained in medical organizations that the familiar terms are included in popular ABA therapy billing software.

If a patient identifies Taco Tuesday as a contributor to their poor health, that is an antecedent. Triggers can be something like a party, homelessness, or even medicine side effects. The resulting behavior might be eating unhealthy foods, not taking medicine as directed, or missing follow-up appointments.  

You can use a patient portal to message praise after reports of good choices. Patients are more likely to stay on track if they receive positive feedback after each success. Noncompliance shouldn’t be rewarded, but it should not be punished either.

Your patients will have lifelong benefits

Doctors find that influencing behavior change is particularly challenging for lifestyle and nutrition choices. These simple ABA Therapy techniques are effective with people of all ages and are proven by decades of study. Take advantage of messaging software or apps offered by your clinic or hospital to provide positive feedback to your patients. Use verbal praise to reward compliance with medication or good lifestyle choices that result in a health status change. You’ll develop stronger relationships with your patients and impact their health at the same time.

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