Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A free simple way of improving patient engagement

Patient engagement has become a buzzword today, and lots of efforts have been made to involve patients in their own health care.
Here's a free simple way which any doctor can use to empower their patients . After telling the patient what medicines he needs to take, he can request the patient to write his own prescription for himself.
After all, at the end of the consultation, the patient should know exactly what tablets they're taking; why; and when. If they can write this down, this reinforces the fact that they are right . This is a great form of teaching back, and reassures the doctor that he has done a good job of explaining the treatment to the patient.  Once the doctor has confirmed everything is correct, he can then sign off on the prescription , so that it's legally valid.
This approach creates a positive virtuous cycles. It checks that the patient has understood the information properly; and it audits the doctor's ability to communicate well. It will also dramatically improve patient compliance. After all, if the patient writes the name of his medicines himself, he is much more likely to remember what he needs to take, and when.  This simple act will reinforce his commitment to take the prescribed medicines. It will also ensure that the patient pays careful attention during the consultation, because he knows he is going to have to write down his own prescription !
When the doctor counterchecks the prescription,  he can correct any misunderstandings at this time, rather than wait for the patient to make an error because he did not understand the instructions properly . It also reduces the chances of the patient forgetting the instructions, because writing them down helps to strengthen recall. It will also ensure that the patient can read his own prescription , rather than trying to have to decipher the doctor's handwriting after going back home.
This is a simple and free technique. In case the doctor is very busy, the patient prescription can also be reviewed by the nurse. The patient can also write the instructions for each of the medicines in their own local language as well, so that the doctor doesn't need to worry about the patient's inability to understand English.
Writing their own prescription should be quite easy for a patient with a chronic illness, because they usually need to continue taking the same medicines. It will give patients a sense of power , because this signals that the doctor respects them, and expects them to know exactly what they need to do. It also makes it harder for the patient to conceal their ignorance - something which lots of patients often do, because they don't want the doctor to think they are dumb; or because they don't want to waste the doctor's precious time by asking "stupid questions".  When writing their own prescription, if they are not sure what they are taking and why, they will be forced to get their doubts clarified, and this will help to improve their care.
It will also help the doctor to become more empathetic, because he will be able to  understand and clear the patient's doubts. Doctors could also create a blank prescription template , and ask patients to fill this in, to make it easier for them. This can also help to save the doctor's time, because the patient is entering the names of the medicines himself.
Are there any downsides to doing this? These prescriptions are not valid until the doctor signs them, so I don't think there is any scope for misuse.

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