The best rewards also are linked to small milestones along the way to larger goals, such as losing three pounds rather than 20. “The goals must be achievable: a hill to climb, not a mountain,” McEndree says.
The more difficult, onerous, or expensive the action desired, the higher the incentive should be, adds Tom Wicka, CEO and co-founder at NovuHealth, a national healthcare consumer engagement firm in Minneapolis. “Having a cancer screening involving blood or biopsy in a physician’s office is a bigger ask than going to your local pharmacy for a flu shot.”
4. Communicate clearly in lingo-free language
When you talk above patients’ heads, you lose their focus.
Patients whose doctors communicated poorly were 19% less likely to follow their care plan, according to a review of 106 studies over nearly six decades ending in 2008, according to a study in Medical Care Journal.
Training doctors in communication skills led to 1.62 times higher patient adherence than those without that training, as the study findings concluded. As many as 50% of chronically ill patients fail to follow the full regimen of medicine, appointments, screenings, exercise, and diet, the study said.
“Patients may leave doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and hospitals without a clear understanding of their conditions, medications or the next steps they need to take,” says Christopher K. Lee, MPH, CPHQ, clinical solutions marketing manager at Family Health Centers of San Diego, a provider of healthcare and supportive services. “They may nod in agreement, but they don’t understand or won’t remember when they get home.”
That’s especially true when they’ve been given anesthesia or a harsh diagnosis.
Patients also are bombarded with too many and too complex instructions. “They’re not necessary and not patient-friendly,” he says. “Nobody reads all that.”
Worse, questions often are left to already time-strained pharmacy staffers, “who realistically have 30 seconds to explain medications,” Lee says. “The burden should fall on healthcare providers. We need more dedicated care coordinators and case managers who are trained to meet patients at their level and are given the time to do the job right. Health information texts may help—but nothing replaces human interaction.”
5. Encourage healthy habits
Employers can greatly influence their workers’ healthy behaviors in the workplace, says Safeer, a board member at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, a professional medical association for physicians, clinicians and allied health professionals in lifestyle medicine, in Chesterfield, Missouri, and former medical director of preventive medicine at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a network providing medical, dental and vision insurance in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. “The more approaches you offer the more likely employees will adopt healthy behaviors.”
Fill vending machines with fruit and low-fat snacks, not sugar-filled sodas and packaged snacks. If you have a company cafeteria, put fruit near the checkout register, not pastries. Price better choices lower.
“Policies greatly influence behavior,” he says. That starts with not docking pay for employees going to medical appointments and providing space for lactating new mothers to breast-pump.
Place signs at elevators directing to nearby stairs—and make sure the latter are well-lit, safe and appealing, with fresh paint, carpeting, and pictures on walls, Safeer says. “Outdoor green space and indoor greenery make people more likely to engage in physical activity.”