How to Engage Patients in Choosing Healthy Behaviors WITHOUT Giving Advice


I don’t know about you, but I, like most people, don’t like being told what to do.  From about the age of 2, we all began to flex our independence as we learned to say no.  As healthcare professionals, we have studied human development and have a pretty good understanding of it.  However, we don’t always translate this knowledge into action when we work with patients. Case in point, we have all been trained to give patients health advice.  This translates into telling people what to do to be healthy.  If giving advice worked, everyone would be making healthy choices.  When we give advice, we do so from the premise that we are the expert and are supposing that we know what is best for the patient but that is not always true.  We often do not have a full understanding of what is important to the patient, what works for him/her, or what doesn’t work.  In reality, the expert in our patient’s life is our patient.

Let’s change our point of view from the healthcare professional being the expert, to the patient being the expert.  How do we do that, we do that when we use Motivational Interviewing. Motivational Interviewing is a “Particular kind of conversation about change”.

  • Collaborative
  • Patient-Centered
  • Respectful
  • Relationship Building
  • Gathers Shared Knowledge

It takes practice to develop your skills at Motivational Interviewing.  It can be hard to refrain from giving advice.  When you really listen to patients and engage them in conversations, you will hear what it is that is important to them.  This is called their change talk.  Here is an acronym to assist you in eliciting this change talk – OARS

  • Open questions – Ask open ended questions
  • Affirmations – Provide emotional support and encouragement to demonstrate your active listening
  • Reflections – Respond with statements that are intended to mirror what the patient is saying
  • Summarize – Provide a summary of the information that the patient shared that is encouraging the change and ask for validation “Is that what I heard you say?”

At HealthTechS3, we implement care coordination programs and to ensure our clients have long term success, we provide ongoing education and networking opportunities to help our care coordinators develop skills such as motivational interviewing to assist patients in making the healthy choices they desire. If you are interested in learning more about care coordination or our educational offerings, please contact Faith Jones at