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Do You Stick to the Treatment Plan?

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One of the biggest frustrations doctors face is patients who don’t follow their treatment plan. Why is it that we so often fail to do “exactly as the doctor orders?” (I know I’m guilty of it…) In a recent radio interview, KRLD medical expert Dr. David Winter, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN), talks about this predicament.  You can listen to the podcast here.

Many people may think that discovering new, effective treatments for diseases is one of the biggest challenges doctors face. It is, but getting patients to comply with those treatments is often just as big a challenge. Sounds reminiscent of  this classic movie scene where Jerry Maguire is pleading with his client, “Help me, help You!”

SO WHAT’S A DOCTOR TO DO?

Dr. Winter says, “I’ve learned that people in the exam room are anxious, distracted, worried about what the doctor is going to say. They don’t often hear you properly. It’s important to write down what you say. And specifically ask, “Do you have any questions?”

In his interview, Dr. Winter talks about a new study encouraging physicians to take a different approach when mapping out a patient’s treatment plan. The study looked at behavioral strategies that use a bit of psychology to help motivate patients to better manage chronic illness.  It’s those diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, that seem to be the hardest to handle.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE DOCTOR’S ORDERS

Researchers offered these tactics that both doctors and patients can use to work together and make sure you stay the course:

  • Ask your doctor to help form very detailed plans that can fit into your specific schedule/lifestyle/abilities. For example, pinpoint specific times you should take your medicine each day…not just “in the morning.”
  • Record when you take your medication and what time. Share that log with your doctor at the next visit. (And don’t stretch the truth. You won’t get scolded for not following the plan, and that info can help you and your doctor make adjustments that fit your lifestyle better.)
  • Figure out strategies to prevent running out of medication and ask your doctor what to do if you do run out and don’t have a doctor’s appointment.
  • Break big goals into small ones. Ask your doctor to help you develop “doable” tasks — little things you can do every day to achieve your bigger goals.
  • Work with your doctor to set exact dates for when you need to achieve a goal (like quitting smoking).
  • Remember that doctors may seem busy but they really do want to take the time to make sure the patient understands why following a treatment is important. If you don’t understand the reasoning behind some of your doctor’s advice, simply ask “Why?”

Want more? Check out the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s “10 Questions to Ask Your Physician.” They even have a special tool that helps you build your own question list.

Information in this blog post originally appeared on 1080 KRLD NewsRadio’s “This Week in Medicine w/ Dr. David Winter on November 29, 2012.

About the author

Jennifer McDowell
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Jennifer is a public relations professional who assists the Baylor Scott & White Health team on numerous projects. Born in Tennessee, she came to the “Big D” by way of SMU. Prior to this gig, she was the associate producer of an award-winning syndicated medical news segment.

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Do You Stick to the Treatment Plan?