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Importance of Patient Expectations in Physical Rehab

Although not often considered, patient expectations play a fundamental role in the success of recovery. For instance, studies show that baseline recovery expectations are correlated with patient outcomes.¹ Thankfully, there are several key practices that you, as a clinician, can implement to help manage patient expectations — including setting realistic goals, practicing clear patient-centered communication, and building a trusting relationship


1. Setting Realistic Goals


Research suggests that patients report lower levels of satisfaction with their results when they begin rehab with high and potentially unrealistic expectations.¹

Therefore, it is essential for you to be open and communicative, such as by providing clear markers of progress. When patients have more “objective proof” that they’re recovering, they are more likely to understand that healing requires hard work and is not always a linear process.¹


2. Practicing Clear Patient-Centered Communication

As a clinician, you understand that a clear diagnosis is not always available. However, this is difficult for patients, as they struggle when they’re unsure what’s causing them pain. Providing an easy-to-understand explanation of the underlying problem goes far in helping patients develop more realistic expectations for recovery.¹ Remember, knowledge is key!



Patients value communication and education in order to understand that although a clear diagnosis may not be available, you are still able to treat and assign exercises that will help them heal.

Moreover, doing so helps patients understand what to expect during the course of their recovery and the importance of adherence to a treatment plan.


3. Building a Trusting Relationship

Trust in a patient’s healthcare provider is shown to have a significant impact on outcomes, but such faith is conditional and must be built.



Patients need to feel as though they’re important and that their recovery matters.

Early on in rehab, you should ensure that you and your patient discuss realistic expectations for recovery time-frames, treatment that will be provided, and also acknowledge pain and how that will be managed. This communication is especially important when addressing home exercise programs.² You should always remember that each patient’s expectations will be different, and understand that methods for building trust are specific to each patient.

Managing patient expectations is an essential component of recovery from physical rehab. By setting realistic goals, facilitating open communication, and prioritizing trust, you can help your patients reach their fullest recovery possible.


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References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/96/6/797/2686370

  2. https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article-abstract/102/4/pzac008/6535413

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