During patient appointments, everything usually goes pretty well. You listen to their assessment of pain, develop a plan, and if the patient is performing a task incorrectly, you are there to help them complete it properly. But what happens when that patient leaves? How can you be certain that patients are taking their treatment seriously and practicing their exercises at home? Naturally, rapid progress from visit to visit indicates that patients are taking treatment seriously and sticking to the plan, but as their therapist, there are a few steps you can take to ensure better patient compliance.
1. Find their motivator
Get to know your patient on a personal level. Perhaps they are seeking treatment for pain from a broken ankle, but they still have dreams of becoming a runner. Before their next visit, find a fun fact on a runner that also received physical therapy. Not only will this give your patient hope, but it will show a genuine effort that you got to know a bit about them and wish them a speedy recovery.
2. Make sure the patient understands the reason for their visit
Okay, so this one may seem a bit obvious, but from the patient’s point of view, they may be expecting instant results, a miracle treatment if you will—which we both know won’t happen. If your patient understands how their program works and the importance of continuing exercises outside of their visit, their chances of a swift recovery improve.
3. Set a schedule, and understand theirs
Stress the importance of performing tasks on a regular basis, and make sure your patient understands how often tasks need exercised. Take the time to map out a daily, weekly or monthly routine for them to follow so everything is laid out in front of them. However, if your patient works 18 hour days, suggesting a 15 minute bike ride each day to strengthen an injury may not be the most feasible of tasks.
4. Switch it up!
If a patient has five or ten total strength and stretching exercises for their hand, they may become bored and lose interest. Get creative, hit the dollar bins, and introduce some new tools into the mix. Instead of going by the book for a day, have your patient build a house made of play-do.
5. Follow up
Give your patients a brief call to check up on their progress and offer additional motivation in-between visits. A simple, “Hey, how are you doing?” can go a long way, and as their therapist, you should be one of their biggest cheerleaders for recovery. If your schedule is too hectic, task an assistant with five minute checkups.
6. Plan for the future
Even if your patient just began treatment, talk about injury prevention to ensure they won’t become a regular, as charming as they may be.