3 steps to get patients to change bad health behaviors

What a difference a year made for one of his patients, writes Adam Licurse, M.D., assistant medical director at Brigham and Women's Physicians Organization, in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst.

The new patient he met in early 2015 in his primary care practice was a young man who struggled with his weight, rarely exercised, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, was having weekly panic attacks at work, wasn't sleeping well and was prescribed medication for hypertension, Licurse said. During that visit, they talked about health goals and decided on a plan of steps that left Licurse hopeful. But then the patient missed a three-month follow-up visit and didn't reschedule.

However, a year later, when the patient returned for a visit, he was a completely new man, having changed every one of his bad health habits. He's in the minority, of course. "Indeed I have no others like him," writes Licurse.

Indeed, as FiercePracticeManagement reported earlier this week, 72 percent of American adults have at least one bad health behavior--smoking, drinking too much, not sleeping enough, not exercising and being obese--which substantially increases their risk of fair or poor health.

So how can healthcare systems change the behavior of patients to achieve better health outcomes? Licurse says the following three steps are a start:

  • Support behavior changes so patients care and believe they can change
  • Enable tools for self-care so patients see results that make them feel good and continue to change
  • Adapt approaches so patients can discover a way to healthy goals that work for them

To learn more:
- read the article