How to Improve Patient Compliance in Physical Therapy

Patient compliance is an essential part of patient recovery and rehabilitation in physical therapy, particularly when patients have a chronic or longer anticipated recovery time. We recently had a patient who expressed dismay that she wasn’t “getting any better.” This patient had a history of late cancelling appointments and not only non-compliance with her home exercise program but frequently lost the instructions all together. In spite of that, she had met many of the goals that were set for her and once she was reminded of those met expectations she felt better and was re-inspired by her treatment plan.

This example reiterated to me that rehabilitation is a partnership between pt and patient. Successful physical therapy depends on both physical therapist and patient working together equally towards relevant goals, in her case long term pain management and reduction of pain flare-ups.

Here are some of great ways to increase patient compliance and increase a patient’s successful rehabilitation.

5 Ways to Increase Patient Compliance in Physical Therapy

  1. Goals: Regardless of diagnosis, physical therapists create goals or milestones to reach for the duration of treatment. The charting of goals and progress are necessary for insurance purposes, but more than that they tell the story of a patient’s path to rehabilitation. Keeping patient apprised of these goals and when they’re met and replaced with new goals is a great way to keep a patient motivated by their progress and desire to continue.
  2. Empower: Sessions are 50 minutes long and repeated 1-3 times per week, but for the majority of the time, patients are on their own dealing with their diagnosis or injury. Sending along home exercise programs or tips to use in the home or at work are a wonderful way to remind patients that they have a direct impact on their success in physical therapy.
  3. Think outside the box: From evolving technology to new information, it’s important to sometimes think outside the box when treating patients. Keep in mind and try modalities like: ultrasound therapy, low-level laser therapy, paraffin wax therapy, etc. as appropriate.
  4. Educate: Rather than leaving patients to Google, give them access to information, websites and the like that can help them understand their diagnosis, injury and treatment options. There can be a lot of incorrect information found on the internet and left to their own devices, this misinformation can derail a patient’s mindset and as a result progress. Providing good educational resources at the outset will give your patients essential peace of mind.
  5. Accountability: We had a very real talk with the patient I used in the beginning example about accountability and how showing up for herself, by keeping appointments and following her home exercise programs will go a long way towards her continual positive progress. No one likes to have these conversations, but sometimes they are necessary to keep patients accountable to their own successful completion of physical therapy.

Working together is an essential component of any patient’s success. One of the top barriers towards completing a physical therapy program successfully is patient non-compliance. Using the methods outlined should go a long way towards improving patient compliance and outcomes.

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