Motivational Interviewing in Healthcare: 3 Ways It Transforms Care Delivery

As healthcare shifts to a consumer-centric model, providers are faced with increasing pressure to maximize their limited time with patients. In the 10 or so minutes they have together in an appointment, providers are relied upon to simultaneously improve health outcomes, enhance the patient experience, and reduce healthcare costs. A large undertaking, to say the least.
While there are a number of steps we can take to address the transformative goals of America’s healthcare system, motivational interviewing (MI) in healthcare has proven to be an effective way of helping to achieve all three.

Motivational interviewing is a counseling technique used by healthcare providers to help patients uncover the intrinsic motivations to successfully shift behavior patterns and make healthy lifestyle choices. This technique is primarily based on the provider’s ability to demonstrate empathy, open-mindedness, and attentiveness to the patient, all while providing guidance in a non-judgemental way.

Effective patient-provider communication has long been disregarded by the provider community in its ability to create a meaningful impact on patients. However, in an increasingly global landscape, motivational interviewing is more important than ever to elicit information related to social determinants of health and drive productive conversations and collaboration that lead to health behavior change.

Here are three ways that motivational interviewing contributes to improving healthcare.

1: Improving Health Outcomes

Among the most obvious benefits of motivational interviewing in healthcare is its ability to improve health outcomes. Motivational interviewing shifts the dynamic of a conversation so patients feel empowered to make healthy lifestyle choices, which is proven to greatly increase the likelihood of sustained behavior change. It’s only natural for people to be more open and willing to re-evaluate deeply-ingrained behaviors, or habits, when they play a key role in the decision-making process.

The implications of taking a more collaborative approach in patient-provider communication are substantial for the community at large. Beyond sustained behavior change, providers can use motivational interviewing to prevent chronic disease, which is currently the leading cause of death and disability in the world.

The educational aspects of motivational interviewing can also have a positive effect within the community, improving the health of both the patient and the public at large. Oftentimes, unhealthy lifestyles are the result of learned behaviors. The most effective way to change learned behaviors is through education and awareness, which can be readily provided by leveraging basic principles of MI during patient appointments.

2: Enhancing Patient Experience

In a digital world, it’s no longer enough for a healthcare practice to be in-network and in close proximity to a patient’s home or work address. Healthcare consumers are increasingly turning to sites like WebMD and ZocDoc to make informed decisions around their health and to determine which providers they should consult with for professional guidance. Similar to other consumer businesses, thriving in this competitive environment puts added pressure on healthcare practices to deliver a pleasant and memorable experience. Patients expect staff to be friendly, nurses to be patient, and clinicians to be personable and fully-engaged in the wellness of their clients.

The humanitarian skills exercised by motivational interviewing allow for relationship building in the provider space – a new approach to what has traditionally been a very transactional process. By taking a more patient-centric approach, we can improve the experience, increase the likelihood of a patient’s return, and as a result build the trust required to encourage healthy lifestyles and sustain behavior change.

3: Reducing Healthcare Costs

The United States has one of the highest costs for healthcare delivery in the world. While the list of reasons is expansive and complex, a key contributor to increasing healthcare costs is a historical emphasis on treatment vs. prevention. As noted in a study published by Health Affairs,

“…cost savings from incremental improvements in use are the result of gaps in the current use of [preventative] services that have the potential to save money. Three services contributed more than $1 billion each to the net additional medical savings: tobacco cessation screening and assistance; discussing daily aspirin use; and alcohol screening with brief counseling.”

By implementing motivational interviewing techniques to support screening and brief interventions for substance use and mental health during patient visits, we can more easily identify concerning behaviors and address them before they become costly to the patient and potentially burdensome to our society.

Why Isn’t There More Motivational Interviewing in Healthcare?

The biggest barrier for providers in leveraging motivational interviewing has been a historical lack of importance given to patient-provider communication. Only recently have humanities become a measurable component in the curriculum of schools of health professions. High proficiency in biology, pathology, and anatomy no longer indicates the success of healthcare providers in delivering quality care. Now, providers are expected to be effective communicators with the skills required to build trusting relationships with their patients.

And while standardized patients can be useful to practice communication skills, they are often unreliable, costly, and inefficient in giving medical students an authentic clinical experience.

With Kognito simulations, students and health professionals learn the basics of motivational interviewing and get to practice applying these skills in a risk-free patient conversation. As stated by a clinical end-user of Kognito’s SBI with Adolescents simulation, “the variety of adolescent responses and the consistency with how they responded to situations I have been in in real life is surprisingly accurate.” Virtual simulations give us a unique opportunity to safely practice the skills required to actively take part in the transformation of our healthcare system.

From a client success perspective, Kognito’s virtual simulations have been a huge differentiating factor in leveraging motivational interviewing to transform care delivery. For example, one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit organizations in the U.S. has implemented our full suite of clinical simulations to train social workers and substance use counselors on MI techniques. The results so far have been phenomenal. Of the participating healthcare professionals:

  • 90% reported high levels of confidence in using MI to motivate a patient to seek behavioral health treatment after the simulation experience, compared to 74% before
  • 92% reported high levels of confidence in scheduling a follow-up visit or referring patients to additional behavioral health treatment or support services, compared to 78%

When it comes to motivational interviewing, one clinical end-user commented that based on what they had learned: “It gave me a process to be able to utilize and focus on motivational interviewing to elicit responses.”

Learn more about how Kognito’s virtual suite of clinical simulations can help your organization here or experience a demo.

Sachi Bhalerao is a Client Success Manager at Kognito, she is responsible for experience management, customer delight, and the strategic implementation of virtual simulations for health systems and schools of health professions. She holds a B.A. from Rutgers University – New Brunswick in Planning and Public Policy and a Certification in Public Health Education. In her free time she loves to travel, play with her puppy, and read self-development books.

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