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Using Change Theory to Increase Patient Adherence. Carol Lee, MSW, LCSW & Julie C. Wood, RN, MSN, CNS, CHFN. Realities in the Healthcare Business.

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Using change theory to increase patient adherence

Using Change Theory to Increase Patient Adherence

Carol Lee, MSW, LCSW


Julie C. Wood, RN, MSN, CNS, CHFN

Realities in the healthcare business
Realities in the Healthcare Business

We may have the best doctors, the newest techniques and equipment, the best staff and a beautiful hospital but all that does not matter if our patients are not medically adherent.

Our hospital ratings and re-imbursement is measured on patient outcomes.

Therefore finding new ways to enable patients to be successful in changing their behaviors to be medically adherent is the basic key to the success of a medical system.


1. Identify the 6 basic principles to influence change

2. Identify the 2 basic questions that patients ask

themselves before adherence is possible

3. Learn how to identify Vital Behaviors for a specific

patient population and to measure these behaviors with

Patient Self-Assessment Surveys

Change theory
Change Theory

Based on the work of Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

Books: Change Anything,Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, and Crucial Conversations

The authors researched what was effective in changing individual and group behaviors. Based on this research, they developed principles and strategies for successful change.

Medical adherence is abnormal
Medical Adherence is “Abnormal”

Results of Preventative Health Self Assessment Survey

Change Theory Principle: People choose behaviors on what they think will happen.

Human tendency is to live “in the now”.

We consider only the immediate result – “Will it make me feel good now?”

Equally important, but often overlooked is the eventual result “How will this effect me in the(very distant) future?

Medical Adherence is a practice requiring many decisions through-out the day and people need to stay mindfulof their bodies and their health.

Sutter memorial transplant advanced heart service
Sutter Memorial Transplant & Advanced Heart Service


Treatment to a diverse adult patient population

A continuum of care from Heart Failure to LVAD to Heart Transplants

TAVR and Congenital Heart Clinics

Our statistics
Our Statistics

In 2012, we implanted 29 LVADs and 12 heart transplants.

Our total numbers are 108 LVADs and 148 heart transplants.

Our heart failure program was the 1st in the nation to be certified CMS.

Change theory strategies
Change Theory: Strategies

Identify Vital Behaviors by studying positive deviance

Develop a recovery strategy when people make mistakes (anticipate mistakes and make a plan in advance)

Test your results

Update strategy accordingly, test results and repeat

2 questions preceding change
2 Questions Preceding Change

  • Can I do it?

    • Stages of Change Applicable: Pre-Contemplation;

      Contemplation; Preparation; Action; Maintenance; Termination

  • Is it worth it?

    • Social Workers and Nurses often intervene to assist

      people in problem-solving these answers

6 sources of change cont
6 Sources of Change, Cont.

Social Ability – Real change requires help, information

and support from others

Structural Motivation – Environment impacts behavior

Make the healthy choice the easy choice

Structural Ability – Small changes in the environment

can have a big impact that are “forces that either push

with you or against you”

Change theory 6 sources of change
Change Theory: 6 Sources of Change

Personal Motivation – An individual’s desires and wants

Personal Ability – An individual’s skill set

Social Motivation – “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, then we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn accomplices into friends and you will be two-thirds more likely to succeed.” (Patterson, Change Anything)


Self Assessments

Medical Notebooks

Self assessment tool
Self-Assessment Tool

Development for specific populations – (apply change theory and identify Vital Behaviors)

Heart Failure

Pre-Kidney Transplant

Kidney Transplant


Heart Transplant

Self assessment components cont1
Self-Assessment Components, Cont.

Right now my quality of life is:


Poor Excellent

(Directions: Circle the number)


  • The Self-Assessment incorporates each patient’s analysis of their behaviors and symptoms into their clinic visit. This makes the clinic visit patient-centric, drives the decision-making of the clinician, and quickly identifies clinical social work referrals.

  • Early identification of specific areas needing intervention

  • Medical Adherence:

    • Self-Care: Identifies gaps in patient’s understanding

    • Physical Functioning: Identifies areas for medical intervention

    • Mood and Current Concerns: Identifies potential obstacles to adherence


  • Self-Assessment Changes Dynamics of Patient/Provider relationship:

    • Eliminates need for each staff member to grill patients on their behaviors - Patients have already quantified their behaviors, answered the hard questions and are prepared for a conversation re: their behaviors.

    • Allows staff members to be in “Motivational Interviewer” and “Educator/Consultant” role rather than in Authoritarian role. Praise positive behaviors, problem-solve and teach to improve other scores.

Medical notebooks
“Medical Notebooks”

Assists the patient with the Can I do it question by:

  • Providing structure to help patients be organized with their relevant medical directions, calendar of appointments, relevant health information, etc.

  • Creates one place for family members and caregivers to look to help the patient be adherent

Medical notebooks c ont
“Medical Notebooks,” Cont.

  • Creates relevant, current information to show to ER and other health providers (Many of our patients are treated in at least 2 medical systems)

  • Patients now have necessary documents for travel

  • Provides one place for all staff members to place educational material and “homework” for patients

Self assessment scores analysis cont
Self-Assessment Scores: Analysis, cont.

  • Patients do not generally “offer up” how they are beginning to lapse in their Vital Behaviors. If staff do not ask, patients often won’t tell.

  • Patients often assume that if staff do not keep asking, that specific behavior is no longer important.

Self assessment scores analysis
Self-Assessment Scores: Analysis

  • Initial analysis:

    • Patient’s Self-Assessment Scores increase on the following visit

    • As with any behavior, many patients regress in adherence – this is “normal”

Lvad medical notebook organization
LVAD Medical Notebook - Organization

Front pocket of notebook = Labs & Rx “To Do”

Business card holder







Daily Recordings

Medical Problem List

Lvad notebook org cont
LVAD Notebook Org., Cont.

Emergency Guide

Contact List (Emergency contacts, family)

Healthcare Directives

Nutritional Information

Questions for M.D. (Add blank paper)

Heart failure transplant notebooks o rg
Heart Failure & Transplant Notebooks Org.

Front pocket of Notebook = For labs & Rx “to do”

Business card holder



Clinic Worksheets


Diagnostic Reports

Medical Problem List

Contact list

Heart failure transplant notebook cont
Heart Failure & Transplant Notebook, Cont.

Healthcare Directive

Nutritional Information

Questions for M.D. (with blank paper)

Medical notebook given to patient
Medical Notebook Given to Patient

Presented as a gift – each notebook is personalized

Patient instructed by SW or RN on how to use

Patient asked to bring the notebook to all of their medical appointments

Medical notebook given to patient cont
Medical Notebook Given to Patient, Cont.

Staff assists patient in keeping notebook up-to-date

Staff teaches the patients how to read their labs and follow along with staff & keeps information current

Staff writes or has patient write appointments in the calendar

Lvad to heart transplant patients
LVAD to Heart Transplant Patients

When an LVAD patient receives a Transplant, staff re-organizes their notebook for them with the new tabs.

When the notebook is thinned, staff asks if the patient wants to keep the outdated information or obtains permission to safely dispose of their confidential information.

Medical notebook analysis
Medical Notebook Analysis

Effectiveness was observed by patient, their family and staff behaviors

Physicians, RN Coordinators were involved in the organization of the notebooks

All new LVAD & Transplant patients are presented with their Medical Notebook as part of their pre-discharge teaching by the RN Coordinators

With our patients who were given implants before this tool was developed or with our Heart Failure patients, our policy is that any staff member can offer a notebook to one of our patients.

Medical notebook analysis1
Medical Notebook Analysis

Patients, patient’s caregivers and staff “love” this tool

At least 90% of the patients bring the notebook to their appointments and use the notebook to show staff their current medication lists, daily recordings, etc.

Staff updates patient’s notebooks with copies of recent labs, diagnostic reports, etc.


American Heart Association.

Miller, William, and Stephen Rollnick. Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change. 3rd ed. New York: Guilford Press, 2012. Print.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, et al. Change Anything: the New Science of Personal Success. New York: Business Plus, 2011. Print.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, et al.Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Updated 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, et al.Influencer: the Power to Change Anything. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Print.

Contact information
Contact Information

Carol M. Lee