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Improving Patient Compliance Through Better Communication

Patient compliance can be a difficult thing to accomplish, but molding recommendations around patient motivations can help.

It’s safe to say that you and your patients have the same goal: keep them seeing their best for as long as possible. Though you give them your best recommendation, they don’t always follow your advice to a T.  It can sometimes feel like you’re the adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. This type of defiance is frustrating, to say the least, but it’s also detrimental to their eye health. Steve Vargo, OD, MBA, shares his suggestion for improving patient compliance in an article for Optometric Management.


Patient compliance tends to dwindle when recommendations feel more like commands.

Typically, when a healthcare professional prescribes/recommends something, they’ll direct a patient to do a specific thing, take a specific medicine, etc. However, direction can be one-sided, and it might cause patients to become defensive. When it feels like someone is trying to dictate our actions or decisions, we usually push back and feel less obligated to stay compliant. If this direct method doesn’t convince your patients to follow instructions, perhaps the conversation method would be more effective.


You’ve heard the phrase “People will only change when they’re ready.” The conversation method can be a way to help you increase patient compliance by discovering the patient’s motivation. Why did they visit in the first place? What are they looking to get out of the visit? How motivated are they to follow your prescribed next steps? All of these questions can help you determine their goals and reinforce the recommendations as a way to achieve these goals.

Motivational Interviewing

Dr. Vargo suggests “motivational interviewing” as a way to instigate the conversation. With your specific recommendation in mind, ask patients on a scale of 1-10 how likely they are to adhere to the regimen, then ask why the number isn’t lower. This helps patients determine not only what they want, but why they want it. Below is an example conversation Dr. Vargo shared:

Patients adhere to recommendations better when they align with their motives.

Doctor: On a scale from one to ten, how motivated are you to start wearing sunglasses outdoors?

Patient: I would say three.

Doctor: Ok. Why didn’t you say two?

Patient: Well, I know when I do wear sunglasses my eyes feel more relaxed outdoors. I also know that my risk of other eye problems you’ve told me about will reduce if I protect my eyes from the sun. My grandfather lost his vision from macular degeneration. I suppose I should take that more seriously.

Pros & Cons

Discussing the pros and cons allows you and the patient to see every angle of a recommendation. The most important thing about this method is to let the patient express their pros and cons. You already believe this is the best recommendation for them, so your bias may not allow you to see the cons that could arise. Also, as the patient expresses their concern, you can see what might hold them back or motivate them when staying compliant.

How Can EyePromise Help?

When you recommend EyePromise vitamins, you enlist the help of the whole EyePromise team. We offer continuing patient education, online and in-practice materials, and an expert Customer Support team to act as an extension of your practice. Our Auto Refill program helps increase patient compliance to 80% in the first year compared to 50% without it. The program removes the stress of going to a store and searching for a vitamin or going online and trying to find the right brand.

Patient compliance increases to 80% by using EyePromise Auto Refill.

In a simple, one-page ordering screen saved on your front desk computer, your patients can be signed up and enrolled within minutes. From there, we handle product fulfillment and shipping. Your patients will receive their recommended vitamin directly to their door in 3- and 6-month supplies. When they’re about to run out, their next shipment is already on its way – no reorders required. They’ll also receive a series of educational emails pertaining to their vitamin and a personalized phone call from our Customer Support team to help answer any follow-up questions.

It’s frustrating when patients don’t follow your recommendations. These types of patients are often self-motivated and need a better reason to do so. With these new conversational methods, you can let them decide that reason and build your recommendations off their motivations, allowing for a better outcome altogether.

Learn more about EyePromise and its programs.

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