Enhance Patient Compliance By Targeting Different Learning Styles

By Chris Vance, DPM

Getting The Attention Of Visual And Kinesthetic Learners
Visual. Visual learners are pictorial learners. To help determine if patients are visual learners, ask them if they can see their condition as you point to a picture or an X-ray. A visual learner will give you feedback such as “I see” or demonstrate appreciation to a drawing or pamphlet depicting his or her condition. One can facilitate learning via surgical drawings and X-rays.
Visual learners are fascinated with their X-rays and will nearly always ask you to explain the existence of their sesamoid bones. Always send these patients home with appropriate pamphlets or drawings in their hands. Utilize treatment recommendation sheets so you can write down their diagnosis in print. Indicate any X-ray abnormalities and list treatment recommendations. These should all be spelled out in layman’s terminology on the treatment recommendation sheet the patient takes home. If you are not communicating effectively with the visual learning, patients will tell you they cannot “see” what you are trying to say.
Visual learners:
• need to see an illustration of what they are being taught before they understand it;
• are drawn to flashy, colorful, visually stimulating objects;
• almost always prefer books which include pictures or illustrations;
• look like they are daydreaming when they are trying to get a mental picture of what is being said; and/or
• usually remember better when they can actually see the person who is talking.
Kinesthetic. The last and least prevalent memory style is a kinesthetic learning style. These individuals respond to movement. Not only are they active, action-oriented people but they enjoy skeletal models, feeling a bone spur, examining an orthotic and experiencing how a taping feels on their feet.
Kinesthetic learners have short attention spans. They want action so involve them in the learning process with short bursts of information coupled with models they can touch. These patients respond best to being involved in their healing process, whether it’s via exercise, stretching, massage therapy, taking medication or utilizing topical patches such as Lidoderm. Make these patients part of the team by placing responsibility on them to perform these modes of self-treatment to facilitate improvement.
Kinesthetic learners:
• have difficulty sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time;
• usually learn best by physically participating in a task;
• almost always have some part or their bodies in motion; and/or
• prefer to read books or hear stories that are full of action.
This self-evaluation will give you insight as to your personal memory preference. Once you ascertain your predominant memory style, you can work on the less dominant styles to improve your appreciation and facilitate the use of other methods to help communicate more effectively with those who have memory styles different than your own.

Mastering Communication With More Challenging Patients
Having practiced in Seattle, I treated a significant number of engineers from Boeing. I did not take me long to see that I wasn’t receiving the compliance with my engineer patients that I was getting with other patients. This failure stimulated me to search for better methods of communication.
Equally enigmatic were the patients who agreed with all phases of my treatment plan, but did not follow through with our agreed upon course of therapy. Lastly, the high activity, high maintenance patients were particularly challenging and I vowed to understand and communicate with them more effectively.
If you cannot decide what type of learner you are dealing with, use all three memory methods. Show pictures, X-rays and drawings. Repeat and emphasize key points. Facilitate the patient’s tactile sensations.
Once you adapt these styles in your communication with patients, you’ll be on your way to better rapport, better compliance of your recommendations and a more enjoyable practice.

Dr. Vance is a practice management consultant in Seattle and is board-certified by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He practices with Gordon Nishimoto, DPM, at Northwest Foot And Ankle Specialists in Everett, Wa.



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