When patients don’t take their treatments as prescribed, it’s easy to assume that the reasons are always the same, like forgetfulness, lack of symptoms or the worry of side eﬀects – but there can be a whole range of complex behavioural factors behind these actions.
For example, a patient may see the medication as a constant reminder of their condition or believe that, if they skip a few doses, the treatment will still work but the side eﬀects won’t be as bad.
To understand the drivers of behaviour, we need to think about patients as individuals with needs and backgrounds as unique as our own.
Health psychology is the study of how psychological and behavioural factors contribute to people’s physical health and illness – helping to provide a more holistic view of the patient. With this expertise, we can enhance a Patient Support Programme, provide a better patient experience and ultimately improve adherence and outcomes.
To find out more, we spoke to a Clinical Psychologist in one of Ashfield’s dedicated nurse teams:
Can you give us a brief overview of your role and career so far?
I’ve been working with Ashfield for the last three years as a Clinical Psychologist and have an MSc level Integrative Relational Psychotherapy qualification. I’ve worked with chronic conditions for six years across several therapy areas including depression, bipolar disorder, cancer and diabetes.
Great, and do you have a lot of experience working in the pharma industry?
I’d like to think I have a great understanding of the pharma industry – with over 22 years’ experience! I began as a medical sales rep way back in 1993 and became a first line sales manager in 2004. In this role I was lucky enough to be part of numerous product launches and witnessed significant changes in the industry and within the NHS.
What made you choose to change career paths?
It was really my experience in the areas of depression and diabetes that led me to retrain as a psychotherapist. It made me want to help people understand their relationship with their condition and treatment and to support their motivation for self-care.
Do you think that health psychology is the key to behaviour change?
I truly believe that patients’ lives can be greatly enhanced by just having someone really listen to them – to understand their feelings and their fears at a deep level. Once understood, these feelings and fears can be worked with and changed to help the patient enjoy a more fulfilled and healthy life.
What difference do you make to patients?
Whereas most professional people who patients come into contact with will look purely at their actions, I look beyond that. I explore the motivation for their actions and many of these will lie at an unconscious level. When I uncover these, I can help create positive change.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is empowering people to understand themselves at a deep enough level to evoke changes that will make a lasting difference to their life and relationships.
Patient feedback demonstrates the difference this approach makes:
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