Telehealth Tips: How to Improve Patient Adherence


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Medically reviewed by Dr. Alex Keller, ND – Written by Laura Dan, BSc, NDTR

Maintaining patient adherence to an integrative treatment plan is an ongoing challenge for many practitioners. Factors affecting patient adherence include patient beliefs and demographics, protocol costs, lack of patient education, and comorbidities. Nonadherence to treatment plans can negatively impact outcomes, increase office visits, and contribute to higher or unnecessary healthcare costs. (13)

Thankfully, certain communication strategies and digital tools are useful for maintaining practitioner-patient relationships and encouraging treatment plan adherence. Using Fullscript’s wide array of tools in addition to the strategies outlined below can help to better engage your patients, improve adherence, and enhance patient outcomes.

Communication strategies to improve adherence

According to a meta-analysis examining physician communication and patient adherence, 92% of individuals had used the internet to search for health information in the last 12 months. (3) While the internet can be a great resource for expanding knowledge and connecting with others, it can also be a source of misleading information. For this reason, directing your patients to reliable, accurate information is more important than ever. Personal connection between the practitioner and patient also plays a role in improving adherence. Regular communication and follow-up visits can enhance the relationships you have with your patients, contributing to better adherence. (6)

Furthermore, increasing patient awareness surrounding health-related topics can lead to increased consciousness of health and habits, and patients with greater health literacy are more likely to adhere to their treatment plans. (15) Health literacy can help patients take an active role in their health and make better informed decisions. (2)

Emails

Consider sending regular emails to your patients. These emails can serve as an e-newsletter, including information such as updates about your practice and health-related educational content. Easily understandable visual content, such as short video clips or infographics, is especially engaging. (9)

We know your time is limited and content creation may not be at the top of your list of responsibilities. Take advantage of Fullscript’s monthly promotional resources that can be distributed to your patients via email. These resources align with monthly themes, promote corresponding supplement ingredients, and allow you to advertise a dispensary discount if you choose to participate.

Fullscript also sends bi-weekly wellness emails to patients consisting of evidence-based content to engage your patients and boost adherence. These emails promise to never undermine your recommendations, endorse one practitioner type over another, mention specific conditions, or recommend specific products and treatment plans. Their purpose is to provide high-level resources to support your recommendations.

Additionally, the Fullscript blog hosts a broad assortment of health-related content you can share with your patients.

Social media

Did you know that social media has overcome print media as a news source for North Americans? (18) Using social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, can be an effective strategy to maintain relationships with existing patients, while also serving as a free marketing tool to attract new patients to your practice.

Studies have shown that communication via social media platforms can improve patient adherence, outcomes, and satisfaction by increasing the time spent communicating with their practitioner. (19)

Share practice updates and evidence-based information on your platform of choice. Be consistent in your message and position yourself as a reliable source of information for your patients and the public. Use eye-grabbing visuals on your feed coupled with trustworthy and valuable information. The more diversified your online presence, the wider the audience you may engage.

Encourage participation by gathering feedback, utilizing surveys and polls, and hosting live Q&A sessions. Live Q&As and webinars are an effective way to educate your clientele and establish yourself as a reputable figure in your field. (4) For tips to engage your audience and grow your practice, visit the Fullscript blog.

Telehealth platforms

Virtual care, which involves live audio-video appointments, can assist you in maintaining your practice from a distance. Telehealth platforms offer an additional method of communication and can better improve patient adherence. (17)

Remote practitioner-patient consultations are especially beneficial during times of increased social distancing. Virtual appointments are ideal for follow ups, mental health support, remote management for chronic conditions, or appointments requiring basic transfer of information. (11)(1)

Benefits of using telehealth platforms include:

  • Better adherence (16)
  • Expansion of access to care
  • Increased practice efficiency
  • Lower patient cost
  • Reduction in overhead costs (7)

While telehealth platforms can be beneficial for the majority of your clientele, remember to consider patients who may have accessibility issues and provide other communication methods (e.g., phone calls, text messages) for these patients. Note that the Fullscript platform is fully accessible and a11y-compliant.

Additionally, notify your patients about telehealth opportunities in your practice and provide them with necessary resources to help them connect with you via your telehealth platform.

Furthermore, integrating your current EHR to Fullscript can increase efficiency and streamline communication between you and your patients.

patient on a video chat with doctor from her home

Telehealth can improve patient adherence and maintain practitioner-patient relationships, especially during times of social distancing.

Additional strategies

Consider utilizing the strategies below to further engage your patients and keep them on track with their treatment plans.

Book follow up appointments ahead of time

Prioritize booking follow up appointments promptly after visiting with your patients to avoid any delay in care. Web-based appointment scheduling is growing in popularity and can serve as an effective time-management tool for your practice. (21)

Benefits of web-based scheduling include:

  • 24/7 availability
  • Decreases waiting time
  • Effective at filling last minute open appointment slots
  • Hassle-free, minimal labor needed
  • Improves client satisfaction
  • Reduced no-show rates compared to verbal scheduling (21)

Use technology to track habits and set reminders

Mobile apps can be used to track patient progress, support their specific goals, and serve as a daily reminder to take medications and supplements. The use of mobile health apps may improve patient experience and contribute to better health outcomes. (12)

In one study, participants who used a mobile app to track their physical activity increased their activity by 22% over the course of eight weeks when compared to individuals who didn’t track their activity. (5) Another study showed that patient experience improved by 17.7% for those who used a health app when compared to non-users. (12) The table below features some of the top recommended wellness apps from Fullscript practitioners.

Mobile apps can help patients keep track of their health goals on the go.

Increase social support and accountability

Staying connected during times of social isolation poses unique challenges, however, online support groups may help keep your patients on track. Benefits of participating in online support groups include increased motivation, better coping skills, and greater compliance. (14) Additionally, social isolation and loneliness can result in decreased treatment plan adherence, making social connection even more valuable. (8) Direct your patients to online support groups based on their chief health concerns or goals.

Did you know?
Studies suggest that peer support can improve the likelihood of individuals adhering to their treatment plans. (20)

Consider creating a private Facebook group for your patients to provide support and guidance. You’ll have control over who is able to join the group and your patients will have a safe space where they can connect with other patients who may be managing a similar condition.

Note: to avoid Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations, closely monitor the group. If a patient asks a specific question regarding their treatment plan or shares personal information, promptly remove the comment and address their question privately.

Recommend using pillboxes

Encourage your patients to use weekly pillboxes to improve their adherence. Pillboxes are especially beneficial for patients with complex treatment plans and for elderly patients who need assistance with taking the proper dosage for each medication or supplement.

man holding a pillbox

Sorting daily supplements into pillboxes can help your patients adhere to their treatment plans.

Remind your patients that pillboxes should be stored in a cool, dry space and that certain supplements (e.g., products requiring refrigeration) should be stored separately. To serve as a reminder, direct your patients to use mobile apps, phone reminders, or simply combine the act of taking their supplements with a daily task, such as brushing their teeth. (10)

Key features to utilize within your Fullscript dispensary

Fullscript offers several convenient features to improve patient adherence and maximize efficiency.

Refill reminders

Refill reminders are essential to improving patient adherence and ensuring that your patients have an adequate supply of their supplements. When a patient is running low on supplements from their treatment plan, an email reminder is sent to them automatically. Based on the recommended quantity of units and duration of the treatment plan that you input, Fullscript’s automated refill reminders will be sent shortly before your patient runs out of a product.

Learn more about advanced refill reminders here.

Adherence management tool

The adherence management tool is particularly helpful in identifying at-risk products. If an item you’ve ordered or prescribed in the last three months has been discontinued, removed from the catalog, or back-ordered for an extended period of time, you’ll notice a product swap alert banner within the catalog. Take action before your clients run out of their existing product by suggesting an alternative. When swapping a product from the catalog, you can opt to have an email alert sent to any or all affected patients.

Autoship

For clients following protocols for extended periods of time, the autoship feature is a convenient tool that can increase adherence and eliminate the need for patients to manually place orders for products they will need on an ongoing basis. Autoshipments can be customized to include any previously ordered product at the interval of the patient’s choosing.

Learn more about Autoship here.

Product favorites

If you haven’t done so already, consider allowing your patients access to your ‘Favorites Categories’, encouraging them to choose products you’ve personally curated. Doing so can help your patients confidently select products outside of their treatment plans. Keep in mind that you will still have access to track any products your patients have ordered.

Recommendations and protocols

When a patient is beginning a new supplement protocol, consider creating a recommendation/prescription instead of directing them to the catalog to search for the desired products. Creating prescriptions improves the patient experience, increases ordering efficiency, and reduces the risk of ordering incorrect products. Clear and simple dosage instructions are also indicated within the prescription for further clarity, and to trigger refill reminder emails.

To improve efficiency, Fullscript offers a library of evidence-based clinical protocols that can help you create treatment plans for your patients. These protocols can be uploaded directly to your dispensary, where they can easily be applied to patient prescriptions.

The bottom line

Using digital tools, including a virtual dispensary like Fullscript, can positively impact patient adherence. Whether your goal is to move towards a virtual, telehealth model for your business or to offer additional services in order to reach a larger patient population, the tips outlined in this article can help you better engage and serve your patients.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

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