You’ve broken an arm, or you’re running a fever, or you’ve developed a rash. A visit to your doctor, and a discussion about options results in an order for a drug, a bandage or cast, surgery, or another treatment plan to help you heal or become healthy again.
Or maybe you have a chronic condition or disease, and you’re consistently under a doctor’s care. At each visit, you and your doctor review your treatment plan and, if necessary, you make adjustments. The goal is to help you manage your condition to improve or maintain your health.
In either case, your doctor did her job. She worked with you to develop a treatment plan. That’s what you needed, expected, and that’s what you, and your insurance company, paid her to do.
So what’s your job? Your job is to heal, or at least to keep yourself from getting sicker. Your job is to follow the treatment plan you and your doctor developed.
Sounds simple, right?
Remarkably, studies tell us that 50 to 75 percent of patients don’t follow their treatment plan. Either they don’t fill a prescription, or they don’t change a dressing, or they forget to take their pills, or they fail to follow instructions in some other way. Even more surprisingly, the people with the chronic problems such as hypertension, have the highest non-compliance rates. Children, too, are often victims of caregivers who fail to follow a doctor’s instructions.
Doctors call this "non-adherence" or "non-compliance." It's one of the biggest complaints they have about their patients, especially those patients who return to them later complaining of symptoms that would have been controlled had they followed their treatment plans.
As in, "Doctor, yes, I know I'm supposed to quit smoking, but I still can't get rid of this cough!" or "Yes, I know I've gained 10 more pounds, but my knee still hurts when I try to go up the stairs!"
That just doesn't make much sense.
Yes, there are times when a treatment isn’t helpful or it may be incorrect, and it will make sense to question it. A drug may be too expensive for you, or you may develop side effects that are uncomfortable or unexpected.