When Patients Don’t Listen!

Key Messages

  • 1 in 5 patients don’t follow their doctor's recommendations
  • Patients may understand what you recommend but not follow through or just forget
  • Cost, discomfort, inconvenience or fear  are just some of the reasons patients don’t follow advice
  • You can help patient adherence in a number of ways
  • WMHP will keep you informed with regular letters regarding your patients’ progress and outcomes

A 2010 Harvard Medical School study showed that about 20 percent of first-time prescriptions are never filled. This means that 1 in 5 patients don’t follow their doctor's recommendations. This was reinforced recently when we received some feedback from a patient who had been struggling with bladder symptoms for two years. She was seeing both a urologist and gynaecologist and had been referred to WMHP but it took her many months before she actually did anything about it.

When it comes to patients following through your referral for pelvic health treatment you’d be surprised how many don’t take your advice! You may be suggesting to your patients that they will benefit from a personalised pelvic floor program but we can tell you that only some of them are making the call and actually seeing the benefit.

I personally visit many doctors and they often tell me that they refer regularly to WMHP. We analyse our referral sources and are able to track where our patients come from.  When I go back to our practice and check those figures you would be surprised how few patients have followed that doctor’s advice.

Patient Feedback

So, what happened to our patient who gave the feedback above? The good news is that she finally made an appointment and, after 5 consultations, she was off all medication and felt 95% cured. She felt so good that she was sorry she hadn’t taken her specialist’s advice to visit WMHP earlier and wanted us to let doctors know her story.  

Cost, discomfort, inconvenience, fear, embarrassment, misinformation, life priorities and the difficulty of changing behaviours all contribute to patients not following your advice.  They may understand what you recommend but not follow through due to any of the reasons listed – or because they just forget once they walk out the door. The problem may also be that this is the first time they’ve heard that a specifically trained Physiotherapist can help them with pelvic floor issues and thus don’t really understand the value they can get.

If you think your patient will benefit from a personalised pelvic floor program then you may need to help them take the first step. They will certainly thank you for it later.

How To Improve Patient Adherence

  • Print a Fact Sheet (problem specific) from our website and give it to your patient
  • Get your receptionist to make a booking at WMHP for your patient before they leave
  • Give the patient a WMHP referral sheet
  • Ensure your patient understands the benefits of specialised physiotherapy for their condition
  • Send WMHP a copy of your correspondence to the GP (if you’re a specialist)
  • Check on your patient’s progress at WMHP next time they visit you

At WMHP we’re committed to keeping you informed so we’ll always send you regular, written communication regarding your patients’ progress and outcomes. This will allow you to monitor who does and doesn’t follow your advice. If you don’t receive a letter from us, it means your patient didn’t make that call!

Shan Morrison
Women’s & Men’s Health Physiotherapy