Here's How Doctors can Encourage Patient to Make Better Health Choices

Medically reviewed by

Information for Doctors

5 min read

Key Takeaways

A doctor is needed to not only diagnose patients, but also assist them and their family in the journey of recovery, every step of the way. Supporting the patient with the right treatment is not always enough and doctors may have to advise and see that they adapt to a healthy lifestyle.

Gaining back health during recovery is important, but making effective health choices in the long term ensures better health. That’s why patients need their doctor’s support and look up to them for holistic health support. Here is how doctors can coach their patients to make better health choices.

Ways to encourage patient to make positive health choices in the long term

Extend relationship with the patient

In most cases patients understand and value the importance of physical activity and healthy eating, but are unable to commit to a healthy lifestyle [1]. More than a guide or counsellor, they need someone to walk the talk with them. To do this, actioning a healthy physician-patient communication stream has proven to result in healthy outcomes.

Think and devise a path that leads to patient satisfaction by studying the patient’s behaviour more closely. It is important to look for triggers that the patient faces in their daily life like sugary drinks served at the office or fried food being a norm at home. Then doctors can work towards motivating them to cut back on unhealthy habits [2].

Understand the ABCs and try motivation therapy

ABC therapy is used to change behaviours and lays down a three-step process represented in the acronym ABC to mention the flow of the incident of behaviour change. A stands for Antecedents, which are commonly known as triggers. They inspire B or Behaviour. This finally leads to C or Consequences [3]. Doctors can use this method to determine their patient’s ABCs and work towards changing their behaviour towards a trigger to give way to a healthy consequence. For instance, when treating a diabetic patient who can’t keep their hands off sugar, keeping the consequence of consuming sugar in an uncontrolled way in mind the doctor can interact with him/her to explain the lethal outcome.

Rather than being preachy or negatively implying the consequences of hyperglycemia, motivate the patient to stir away from triggers. Explain the importance of setting goals and assist the patients to observe a healthy path by highlighting the importance of wellness [4].

ABC theory to encourage patient

Choose right examples to spotlight the benefits

Studies show that physicians who are able to communicate well with their patients are more than twice as effective in getting patients to make life changes [5]. When doctors simply state the dos and don’ts to their patients, patients will only follow instructions as a compulsion and skip it when they cannot maintain the practice or when they are relieved of immediate symptoms.

For instance, a doctor may ask a patient to go for a one-hour walk every day, restrict red meat from diet, increase intake of green vegetables and reduce 2 kgs. This is an instructional method of prescribing the healthy way forward. In contrast, another doctor may sit with the patient, explain the triggers and related problems in detail. He may outline the future issues an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle leads to. This creates an impact and the patient may be motivated to make a real change.

Information is value and the more doctors exchange it with their patient through candid chats, examples, and in a personal tone, the better will be the results. Doctors can keep in mind the following in order to help their patients keep away from harmful consequences.

  • Avoid open-ended questions 
  • Restrain from prescribing 
  • Encourage by summarising big wins
  • Give regular feedback and be solution-minded

Be a good listener to understand the patient better

More than a smooth talker, a physician who is a good listener is sure to attract more patients. Take time to listen to patients, as hurried healthcare is not a right approach and may lead to long-term losses [6]. Patients fear judgments on their apprehensions related to the treatment, grief related to their diagnosis, and their inability to follow certain prescribed routine. That is why, a physician needs to make them comfortable with their thoughts and encourage every little achievement. Every step to recovery is vital and a doctor’s guidance is the pillar of support patients need. Sometimes, a physician’s silence and a supportive attitude can work wonders too. So, divide the sessions in such a way that the patient gets ample time to communicate their deepest concerns and thoughts freely.

A direct consequence of a physician’s diagnosis and treatment is their patient’s health. While a doctor is always putting their best foot in this aspect, they can hone their role further to become the doctor who influences their patient to adapt to healthy choices to be their best self, lifelong.

Published on 22 Mar 2022Last updated on 4 Jan 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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