Three Psychological Strategies to Motivate Your Patients in 2024

Patient adherence to care programs is one of the largest challenges that outpatient rehab providers face. In fact, one recent study found that up to 50 percent of patients don’t complete their exercises as prescribed.1 But the good news is that there’s an effective strategy for overcoming this obstacle: combining the power of motivational and marketing psychology with the use of engaging, easy-to-access digital care tools.

Motivational psychology entails understanding patients’ underlying motivations and using this insight to inspire positive behavioral changes. Marketing psychology focuses on effective communication and persuasive techniques, which can be used to improve patient engagement and retention. By combining motivational psychology with digital home programs, healthcare providers can elevate patient engagement, adherence, and overall therapeutic outcomes. Patients actively participate in their recovery journey, motivated by personalized digital care interventions tailored to their specific needs.

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of this approach.

Benefits of Motivational Psychology for Patients

Motivate Patients

Motivational psychology incorporated with digital care tools has shown remarkable success in enhancing patient engagement in therapy.2 Interactive apps and platforms designed with motivational prompts and personalized feedback inspire patients to take charge of their rehabilitation process. By setting achievable goals and tracking progress, patients experience a sense of accomplishment, fostering a deeper commitment to their treatment plans.

Improve Pain Management

Musculoskeletal pain can be debilitating, impacting a person’s quality of life. Digital care tools that leverage motivational psychology offer effective pain management solutions, promoting active engagement and long-term behavior change.3 Patients are empowered to adopt healthier habits, manage pain proactively, and adhere to pain management strategies more effectively.

Personalize Care Programs

A key advantage of integrating motivational psychology into digital care for therapy practitioners and musculoskeletal pain management is personalization.4 Home programs tailored to individual needs and preferences create a stronger emotional connection with patients, leading to improved patient satisfaction and long-term behavior change. 

The fusion of motivational psychology and digital care in physical therapy and musculoskeletal pain management revolutionizes patient experiences, making healthcare more patient-centric and empowering. With increased patient engagement and adherence, digital care tools fuel positive outcomes and lasting behavior changes, elevating the quality of care provided by your organization. As patients actively participate in their healing process, the integration of motivational psychology and digital care emerges as an incredibly powerful duo, propelling patients towards optimal physical function, reduced pain, and enhanced overall well-being.

Psychological Theories to Motivate Your Patients

Now that we’ve explored the benefits, let’s look at several effective psychological strategies that can help you take patient engagement and adherence to the next level.

1. Incentives and Intrinsic Motivation

Incentives play a crucial role in motivating individuals to take action. Combining incentives with intrinsic motivation, driven by personal desires and values, can create a powerful driving force for HEP adherence.5 Patients are more likely to engage with digital care tools when they see the value in these tools aligning with their own health goals. 

Strategy for success — Try offering patients personalized incentives tied to their specific health objectives. Whether it’s earning rewards for achieving milestones or unlocking exclusive content, gamification can support extrinsic motivation and can transform the process of using digital care tools into an exciting journey of self-discovery and growth.

2. Habit Formation Theory

Habits are powerful drivers of behavior, and the Habit Formation Theory suggests that repetitive actions become ingrained over time.6 Integrating digital care tools into patients’ daily routines can accelerate habit formation, ensuring consistent engagement and long-term commitment. 

Strategy for success — You can encourage patients to incorporate digital care technology into their daily lives by setting reminders, creating a structured schedule, and stacking new behaviors alongside established habits. Recommend the use of rewards to help sustain those habits over time. As habits take root, using the digital care platform will naturally become integrated into their routine.

3. Consistency and Commitment

Consistency and commitment are essential in building lasting behavioral changes.7 Encouraging patients to commit to their digital care journey creates a sense of responsibility and dedication to their health goals. 

Strategy for success —Set clear expectations and encourage patients to make a commitment to using the digital care platform consistently. Regularly review progress and celebrate achievements, reinforcing the commitment made and motivating patients to stay on track.

Unlocking the Benefits of Motivational Psychology with MedBridge Pathways

MedBridge Pathways is our new digital care platform, purpose-built to keep therapy at the forefront of care and help organizations deliver superior patient outcomes across the musculoskeletal care spectrum. Pathways uses the motivational psychology strategies discussed before to help providers engage the patient with therapy-driven care that incorporates their condition and lifestyle, and delivers that valuable data back into the clinician’s hands so they can leverage their expertise.

MedBridge Pathways…

Is designed to make exercise a habit.

Patients are guided through exercises by evidence-based progression criteria in multiple phases that align with the timeline of their treatment program. Patients are given a structured schedule they can follow with reminders that help them stack new behaviors neatly into their daily lives.  

Motivates patients to adhere to their home program.

With gamification and helpful reminders, patients are self-motivated to complete their program. If they need that extra little push to continue, data-driven progress tracking gives their providers the actionable data they need to help patients overcome any obstacle that might prevent them from completing their exercise program.

Helps patients understand the benefits of their home exercise program.

Engaging video, text, and interactive education provide a guide for the patient, supporting them throughout their rehab journey.

Promotes therapeutic alliance through ongoing surveys to show progress and reinforce habits.

Periodic surveys and PROs are collected to help measure progress, identify red flags, and manage patient progression. This helps patients stay accountable to both themselves and their provider, with the comfort of knowing that help and guidance from their care team is just a couple clicks away.

MedBridge Pathways is now in beta testing, and will open to early adopters in 2024. Request a demo to find out how you can join the digitally-enabled future of MSK care: provider-first, therapy-driven care for patients across the care continuum.

  1. Kattan A E, AlHemsi H B, AlKhawashki A M, et al. (April 06, 2023). Patient Compliance With Physical Therapy Following Orthopedic Surgery and Its Outcomes. Cureus 15(4): e37217. https://
  2. Barello, S., Triberti, S., Graffigna, G., Libreri, C., Serino, S., Hibbard, J., & Riva, G. (2016). eHealth for Patient Engagement: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 2013. https://
  3. Beresford, L., & Norwood, T. (2022). The effect of mobile care delivery on clinically meaningful outcomes, satisfaction, and engagement among physical therapy patients: Observational retrospective study. JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies, 9(1), e31349. https://doi. org/10.2196/31349
  4. Bernazzani, S. (2021, June 10). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: What’s the difference? HubSpot. motivation%20involves%20doing%20 something,a%20reward%20or%20 avoid%20punishment Cialdini, R. B. (2021). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. Harper Business.
  5. Yardley, L., Spring, B. J., Riper, H., Morrison, L. G., Crane, D. H., Curtis, K., Merchant, G. C., Naughton, F., & Blandford, A. (2016). Understanding and Promoting Effective Engagement With Digital Behavior Change Interventions. American journal of preventive medicine, 51(5), 833–842. Amepre.2016.06.015
  6. Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Random House.
  7. Emmerson, K. B., Harding, K. E., & Taylor, N. F. (2017). Home exercise programmes supported by video and automated reminders compared with standard paper-based home exercise programmes in patients with stroke: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, 31(8), 1068–1077. https://