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 was not “getting better.” This patient had a history of late cancellation of appointments and not only did she fail to adhere to her home exercise program, but she frequently missed all instructions. Despite this, she had met many of the goals that had been set for her, and once she remembered her expectations, she felt better and was inspired by her treatment plan again.

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

These are some of the 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 the diagnosis, physical therapists create goals or milestones that must be achieved during treatment. Recording goals and progress are necessary for insurance purposes, but more than that, they tell the story of a patient’s journey to rehabilitation. Keeping the patient informed about these goals and when they are met and replaced by new goals is a great way to keep the patient motivated by their progress and desire to continue.
  2. Authorize: Sessions last 50 minutes and are repeated 1 to 3 times a week, but most of the time, patients are alone dealing with their diagnosis or injury. Submitting home exercise programs or tips to use at home or work is 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 is sometimes important to think outside of the box when treating patients. Consider and try modalities such as: ultrasound therapy, low-level laser therapy, paraffin wax therapy, etc. as appropriate.
  4. Educate: Instead of leaving patients to Google, give them access to information, websites, and the like that can help them understand their diagnosis, injuries, and treatment options. There can be a lot of misinformation found on the internet and left to your own devices, this misinformation can derail a patient’s mindset and, as a result, their progress. Providing good educational resources from the beginning will give your patients essential peace of mind.
  5. Responsibility: We had a very real talk with the patient that I used in the initial example about responsibility and how to introduce yourself, going to appointments and following your exercise programs at home will go a long way towards your continued positive progress. No one likes to have these conversations, but they are sometimes necessary to hold patients accountable for their own successful completion of physical therapy.

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

Written by Sara Zuboff

September 9, 2020
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