It is a known fact among all of our members that patients often do not do what their physician advises them to after seeing them. As frustrating as it can be, it is important to us at Emerald Coast Medical Association to make our members know that this is not a failure on your part, as you can only do so much. Our meetings are open for our members to discuss these frustrations without judgment, and allow them to discuss among each other how to better address these types of situations.
Many patients disregard a physician’s advice because they have read an article on Facebook or Google that states the opposite of what the physician has advised. Many of these articles are from an inexperienced person who believes that they can give professional advice in the medical field. Many other patients listen to their friend's claims, figuring that they should listen to those close to them rather than a random doctor. Although this can be infuriating to everyone in the medical field, it is more common than we all wish to think.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, many people have issues with “health literacy,” which means the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and the services needed to make the appropriate health decisions and follow treatment instructions. Most doctors are aware that health literacy is significantly under-recognized, but it is a major issue that affects the care of patients. It is estimated that around 90 million adults struggle to understand what the doctor is explaining to them about their sickness, and how to take the proper steps to treat it. Anywhere between 20%-30% of prescriptions are never filled, resulting in more illnesses, hospitalizations, and in some cases, death. Existing data supports that although physicians believe they are accurately communicating advice to their patients, it can often be misinterpreted by the patient, which is a huge part of the problem.
An aspect to consider is moving away from the mindset of “telling” the patients what to do, but rather act as more of a partner and advocate for their health. Translating terms from the medical terminology you were taught all through medical school into easier and more common words can aid in how the patient will interpret it all. Having an understanding of the difficulties this patient may be having with their illness and factors aside from that, is a great first step towards gaining patient trust. Empowering and engaging a patient can lead to them being more likely to follow your advice as a physician.
Effective physician-patient communication increases the chances that the patient leaves your office and readily takes your professional advice. We encourage our members to consider all of this when treating your patients, as it can mean a better outcome for you and your patient.
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