Physical Therapy Patient Education Increases Compliance

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Is patient education the solution to Shannon’s problems with noncompliance?

“Shannon, can I talk with you?” Shannon looked up, startled. She had been engrossed in a report and hadn’t heard Tana enter her office. She took one look at Tana’s angry face and took a moment to calm her own breath. Tana was quick to get upset, and it would not help if Shannon got upset, too.

“Of course,” she said. “Have a seat.”

Tana plopped into a chair. “I’m feeling very frustrated about some of the clients I’m working with,” she began.

Shannon nodded and reminded herself to stay calm. It was always hard for her to listen to complaints without getting defensive. “Can you tell me why you’re frustrated?”

“They’re not doing their part!”

Shannon was beginning to feel confused.

“I take my work very seriously–“ “I know you do–“ Shannon began, but Tana wasn’t ready to hear her.

“–and I can’t help people who won’t show up for their appointments and don’t follow through on their treatments.”

Shannon sat back. She wasn’t going to have to watch what she said after all. “You’re right,” she agreed. “It’s very frustrating to try to work with people who skip visits and don’t follow instructions.”

“We need stricter policies!” Tana continued.

“Like what? We already charge for missed visits. We can’t give them bad grades or ground them.”

“Maybe we should drop patients who won’t comply.”

Shannon frowned. “Maybe we can find some patterns if we look more closely — maybe some group of patients is less likely to comply, or maybe there’s something about the way we’re handling certain patients that leads to failure to comply.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the way I handle my patients!” Tana crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Shannon. “They’re lazy or they don’t feel like doing the work. They want it to be something we do for them.”

“Maybe they don’t understand the importance of what we’re asking them to do. Maybe we need to explain the treatment plan better.”

“You’re making this be all about what we do, and it should be all about what they do. We’re trying to help them. They owe it to us to cooperate — heck, they owe it to themselves.”

Shannon knew just what Tana was talking about. But she also had seen that patients who fully understood their treatments plans were more likely to follow through. “We have more control over what we do than over what they do, though,” she suggested. “Patient education might be the first step–“

Tana snorted. “We’re already too busy around here. We don’t need to add more things to our to-do lists. We need to get some things on the noncompliant patients’ to-do lists.”

Again, Shannon could relate, but she was also beginning to realize that there might be some missing links in their patient education procedures. If each of the technicians explained things in a different way, and perhaps the doctors and office staff in various places the patients went also explained things in different ways, and then the clients looked things up online”¦

It was pretty clear that the clients weren’t getting a consistent patient education experience.

Would it make difference if they were? Shannon thought so. Tana didn’t seem to, but Shannon knew that Tana could bring just as much determination and enthusiasm to her work as irritation and anger. If Shannon could come up with a good plan and get Tana on board with it, they might be able to make a difference.

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Tana,” Shannon said, getting up from her chair. “Let me give it some thought and I’ll see what solutions I can come up with.”

Maybe, Shannon thought, there would have to be some staff education as well as patient education.

Is patient education the solution to Shannon’s problems with noncompliance?

Disclaimer: For HIPAA compliance, all characters appearing in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons or actual events is purely coincidental.