New ways to help patients with chronic conditions
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
As a physician, bringing relief to patients with chronic conditions, which include everything from diabetes to high blood pressure to arthritis and more, is a top priority. Yet aside from prescribing the proper medication and charting your patients' progress through appointments, there are a number of strategies you can employ to make them feel better on a daily basis.
These strategies are low-tech, easy to implement and follow, and can make a huge difference in terms of quality of life, according to recent scientific research. Try these proven tips:
Consider prescribing a sugar pill.
Fascinating new research from Northwestern Universityfound that when a doctor prescribes a sugar pill to a specific group of patients with back pain, it not only reduced their discomfort, but cut prescription costs, as they no longer needed pain meds at all.
The researchers say that potentially, the patient who will benefit has a larger right side of the brain with a larger cortical sensory area, which can be determined through brain imagery. This makes a patient self-aware, and mindful of his/her pain levels.
The doctors in the study told the patients they were receiving a placebo, and asked them to see if it made a difference; most patients reported they had less real pain when they really paid attention to their bodies without their normal medication. Further study is needed, but the results could be very promising for patients you feel it could benefit.
Encourage exercise therapy.
Finnish researchers report that 85 percent of chronic disease patients benefit from reduced symptoms when they participated in strength training and aerobic exercise under their doctor's guidance. Work with your patients individually to recommend a safe exercise plan.
Involve your patients' family members.
If your patient needs to lower his blood pressure, recruit his closest family members to make dietary changes, too. A study from Penn State finds that when family members of a patient set goals for lifestyle changes as a duo or group, that patient does far better in terms of long-term compliance.
Encourage your patients to sing.
A surprising study from Iowa State University found that Parkinson’s patients who participated in regular singing reported reduced stress and a better mood. What's more, the physical stimulation of singing helped these patients improve their abilities for finger tapping and gait.
Ask your patients what their biggest daily challenge is.
Speaking directly to your patient about he or she struggles with most every day, physically and emotionally, is the fastest and clearest way you can evaluate and help. Asking and listening also fosters trust and communication — the two most powerful tools a doctor can use to help a patient gain their best outcome.
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