How doctors get patients to adhere to their advice

    (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

    (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

    You go to the doctor, and he or she tells you what to do to best treat your ailment. When you go to the pharmacy to pick up your medication, you realize you can’t afford it. You try to change your eating habits or add in exercise but it’s just not part of your routine. Soon enough, all of your doctor’s advice goes out the window. 

    That’s what doctors call “non-adherence,” or sometimes “non-compliance.” So what can a doctor do to get patients to listen? 

    “Better communication between physicians and patients is associated with improved adherence,” says John Steiner, senior director of the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

    Any time a doctor sets up a situation in which the patient can ask questions and engage with the doctor in an egalitarian way, the patient is more likely to follow through with their treatment, Steiner says. 

    “We spend all this time acquiring technical training and expertise, and then when we talk to our patients we realize that so much of what we recommend isn’t carried out,” Steiner says. “The problem of what we call non-adherence is so common that any physician soon recognizes that this is, in some respects, the rule, rather than the exception.” 

    Listen to the full interview above. 

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