In a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the Center for Healthful Behavior Change at NYU School of Medicine discovered positive reinforcement, such as “receiving, unexpected gifts and introducing upbeat thoughts into daily routines” can aid patients with high blood pressure take their medication on time and stay on track. Said discovery is vital because poor blood pressure can progress to heart problems and death.
For this study, 256 black patients with high blood pressure were examine to see if positive reinforcement plus patient education could aid them monitor their treatment regiments and take their meds correctly.
The patients were separated into two groups. First group received patient education, while the second group received positive reinforcement in addition to the patient education. The education materials included a self-management workbook, a behavioral contract and two phone calls each month. However, the patients in the second group had an additional chapter in their educational material that encouraged incorporation of positive moments in their lives to help them follow their treatment plans and use those warm feelings to tackle any challenges that made it difficult to stick to the routine. In addition, the second group received surprise gifts in the mail before their phone calls.
The researchers discovered that medication adherence at one year was higher in the second group (42 percent) than in the education-only group (36 percent).
The evidence from the study is in accordance with Thorndike’s law of effect; the probability of an action being repeated is strengthened if it is followed by a pleasant or satisfying consequence. By sending unexpected gifts and encouraging participants to introduce upbeat thoughts into daily routines, the researchers increased the likelihood that participants to take their medication as directed. As a result of positive reinforcement, the patients had a higher rate of...
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