Why Patients Don’t Followup
Common Reasons Patients Don’t Followup on Referral
Patients may have many misconceptions about what a referral to a substance use counselor entails. You, as their physician, can be a trusted voice to reassure them or help dispel some myths about this next step in their care.
The grid below lists a few common patient worries and misconceptions regarding initial referral to a substance use professional and the corresponding facts.
|What patients think||The reality|
|If I talk to the counselor, I have to agree to treatment||There is no implied or explicit commitment to treatment that has to precede the 1st meeting. The only requirement is that the patient is willing to hear and consider treatment options.|
|I have to be sober or drug-free to start any kind of treatment||Many substance use treatment programs focus on “harm reduction” and do not require abstinence as a prerequisite to beginning therapy.|
|I have no choice in the program I participate in||For many patients, there are options that range from Alcoholics Anonymous (or other similar programs) meetings, to structured group or individual therapy that may or may not include inpatient time.|
|Once I start a program, I will be required to stay until the end||Except in cases where it is legally required (court-ordered), participation in substance abuse programs is voluntary and patient driven|
|All treatment is inpatient||Most treatment actually is outpatient|
|I can’t afford treatment||Groups such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous are free. Professionally led, structured inpatient or outpatient programs are associated with a cost. This cost is often largely covered by most insurance plans. This is just the type of information that your substance use professional can give the patient.|
|I can’t handle group therapy so I can’t participate||Therapy can include group meetings, one-on-one sessions or a combination of both.|
Will you help patients separate the fact from the fiction so they will follow through on your referral?