Engage patients to better manage chronic conditions

By Matt Kuhrt

You've seen the same patients year in and year out, and you've given them the same round of warnings and advice every year, but you can't seem to get them to do anything about it. Increased emphasis on how your patients can improve their lives rather than dire warnings about why they ought to change course could be a deceptively simple way to improve the odds of success, according to an article at PennLive.

Chronic conditions such as opioid addiction and obesity suck up huge amounts of healthcare expenses every year and feature seemingly intractable patient populations. The pervasiveness and severity of these conditions has been trumpeted throughout the media, so it's nearly impossible to say patients are generally unaware of the dangers. Still, for any number of reasons, they frequently remain unable to change their behaviors.

Nirmal Joshi, M.D., chief medical officer of Pinnacle Health System, suggests in the article that physicians reframe the way they think about causes of mortality. Where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites deaths and costs related to chronic diseases, he says, physicians should step back and look to the victims' personal decisions for a cause of death. Rather than looking to smoking, drinking or overeating as the cause of the condition, doctors ought to look at the decisions that cause patients to continue to smoke, drink and overeat.

This shift in focus means physicians must spend more energy helping patients to figure out how to build better habits. This invariably means improved patient communication, including models such as motivational interviewing, which offer doctors ways to open a dialogue with their patients, rather than giving them orders and then wondering why they fail to follow them.

To learn more:
- read the PennLive article