How Motivational Behavior Skills Work in the Healthcare Sector

Motivation can be defined as the basic driving force behind human action. A person’s needs and wants impacts the direction of their behavior. There are four forms of motivation: extrinsic, intrinsic, physiological and achievement. There can also be negative forms of motivation. Extrinsic motivation is behavior driven by external rewards from outside the individual. Intrinsic motivation is the opposite of extrinsic, where motivation originates from within to strive toward personal satisfaction. Physiological motivation involves a need from the body for things like food or water. Achievement motivation centers on the need for humans to succeed or to attain excellence.

Patients view medical assistants as healthcare professionals.  These medical professionals have influence on patient motivational behavior. Helping people improve their ability to manage a chronic condition or modify their behavior is something a medical assistant can do on a daily basis. Using the correct technique is critical to making a person feel empowered and motivated to change. One of the most effective techniques used is teaching motivational behavior skills.

This does not mean just handing out a leaflet or verbally relaying instructions. Motivational skills are imparted in a positive way to encourage the patient to take action. Here’s some insight into how motivational behavior skills work in the health sector:

What Do Motivational Behavior Skills Do?

Motivational behavior skills help people change an aspect of their health. They integrate several elements needed to make sustainable change and are regularly used by healthcare professionals, including medical assistants. From a health promotion discussion to enabling someone to learn new ways of moving about in a rehabilitation scenario, motivational behavior skills are a vital part of the medical assistant’s toolkit.

The IMB, or Information, Motivational, Behavior Skills Model, targets three areas of the brain to enable changes. The cognitive area of the brain is targeted by giving information and offering knowledge to support the change being made. Motivation is targeted using the affective domain of the brain. This part of the model creates conditions favorable to change so that the person will want to do something about an issue. The third part of the model focuses on the psychomotor domain and uses examples of what is effective in making a difference.

Motivational behavior skills can also help a patient from relapsing. Patients need to improve confidence and self-efficacy to resist the unhealthy behaviors associated with the  challenges of addiction.

Examples of Motivational Behavior Skills in Action

There was a time when patients with medical conditions or risk behaviors were simply given leaflets or were told to change. The move towards motivational behavior skills models in the health sector has seen a transformational approach to helping people change. An example of how this works in practice is helping a patient who is overweight and does no exercise. Many people are unaware of how little exercise they do, so helping someone realize they are sedentary and overweight is the first stage. This is a core part of the work of a medical assistant. This has to be done first by building rapport with the patient and gaining trust. Techniques include listening, good eye contact and engaging them in conversation.

Raising awareness in having a problem is the next stage of the process. Motivational interviewing techniques that focus on the present and aim to reduce ambivalence in change are used. These raise awareness in a motivational way by getting the patient to work out their individual goals to make a change. This technique is completely different than simply giving instructions to someone.

Once someone is motivated to change, techniques to change behavior can be introduced through goal setting. Examples include taking a five-minute walk around the block each day or giving up a sugary snack mid-morning. By getting people to achieve small, tangible goals, they can work towards the next few changes with more confidence. Medical assistants have a vital role in goal setting and supporting people to achieve behavior change.

Where Has This Technique Worked Effectively?

Motivational behavior skills techniques are used in several settings across the health sector and are increasingly popular. The town of Frome in England has used health connectors to work with the community using motivational behavior changes to combat social isolation and help cope with long term illnesses. The results saw fewer re-admissions to the hospital and improved the feeling of loneliness. This concept is transferable to the medical assistant role as a key element when helping people plan their care.

The Center for Motivation and Change in Manhattan uses motivational behavior techniques to support people with drug addiction and alcoholism. Using a blend of counseling, goal-focused planning and support has seen positive results with people changing behavior. This is supported by studies which show motivational change was more effective at reducing addiction than other standard facilitation programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous. Medical assistants working in addiction clinics can integrate these techniques into their work to help clients effectively.

In the physical therapy sector, a study looked at the difference in outcomes in people with low back pain receiving motivational techniques to change behavior compared to physical therapies alone. The research reported better health outcomes in those receiving motivational behavior change, as this was more sustainable for the long term. This supports the role of the medical assistant in using these techniques in their work with clients.

Motivational behavior skills are a critical part of the role of a medical assistant and can be embedded in a variety of settings. With the increase in people with lifestyle problems, chronic medical conditions and the soaring cost of healthcare, integrating this concept into care planning is vital.

Did learning about medical assisting and motivational behavior interest you? PCI Health Training Center’s Medical Assistant program prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Medical Assistant. Within this general career category there are several specialty areas, including Medical Administrative Office Assistant, Clinic Assistant, Clinic Tech, Medical Office Manager, Phlebotomist, Physical Therapy Aide in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital out-patient clinic. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical assistant and start a rewarding career today.

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