Why Isn’t My Patient Listening to Me?


At one time or another all doctors have worked with a patient that just won’t seem to follow the treatment protocol that you have determined will be best for him or her. This can be puzzling, even frustrating, but your response as a medical professional can greatly influence the outcome for the patient. At the Institute for Podiatric Excellence and Development (IPED) practitioners have the chance to interact in a number of ways and share experiences that can elevate individual practices and the profession as a whole. Here’s what podiatric professionals recommend when dealing with a noncompliant patient.

What’s the Problem?

The first step in helping patients make the best decisions for their podiatric health is to understand what the concerns are that are preventing them from complying with a treatment plan. Common reasons patients don’t follow the doctor’s instruction include:

  • Language barrier—if English is not your patient’s first language, make sure that all of the terms you are using are being understood by the patient. If you determine this is the problem, ask if there is a family member or friend who can come with them to the next appointment.
  • Patient doesn’t believe they need care. Have you explained the long-term consequences of not treating a condition? 
  • There are concerns about the cost of the care. 
  • Patient doesn’t understand the treatment plan. Be sure to allow time and space in the conversation for the patient to ask questions.
  • Undesirable side effects. Help the patient understand the likelihood of the side effects and also do a comparison of the risk of the side effects vs. the risk of not treating the foot condition to get a more balanced perspective.
  • Personal conflict with the provider. This underscores the importance of developing and maintaining good relations with your patients.

Improve Communication, Improve Compliance

Learn to engage in actively listening to your patients. Ask open-ended questions such as, “Help me to understand why you are not following the treatment plan.” Don’t judge or show negative emotions. Work on responding, not reacting. Always show concern and respect for the patient—ultimately their health care decisions are theirs to make. Breaking down barriers and connecting genuinely with your patients will definitely help you get to know them better and result in a treatment plan that is more likely to be successful.

Improving patient outcomes is part of IPED’s mission. To learn more about becoming a membercontact us by calling: 978-296-7634.