According to one study, a New Year’s Day resolution to change or establish a habit may not really take holduntil mid-March, even for people fully committed to their resolutions.

But, for individuals who are contending with weight, fitness, or substance useissues—and begin the year with the determination to change their behavior—theodds of maintaining that commitment into February are dismaying.Nevertheless, finding ways to help your patients persevere could also help reduce the risk of diagnostic, treatment, or medication-related errors.

The health care rendered to patients involved in medical malpractice claims and suits is often complicated by the patient’s co-morbidities. Health conditionsthat are not the primary focus of the medical services being challenged may, however, have influenced both the patients’ and providers’ thought processes.In addition, patients with a range of health issues are likely to have more complex care scenarios: more interactions with multiple providers in diffuse settings. Each added encounter, provider, setting, and treatment regimenincreases the risk of gaps in a patient’s health care coordination and miscommunication—two of the leading components noted in allegations of substandard care.

It’s a motivation gap, not a knowledge gap.

Encouraging patients to fulfill their resolutions now can help them avoid future complications.

Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions1

percent of US Population

eat healthier


get more exercise


get more sleep


read more


make new friends


1. Source: YouGov

Top 5 Co-morbidities2

percent of patients

cardiovascular disease










2. For patients involved in high-severity injury-related medical malpractice cases.
Source: National Comparative Benchmarking System, CRICO

Not surprisingly, the co-morbidities most commonly noted in malpractice cases(see Table) are among the most common health issues across the entire patientpopulation. They are also conditions that often can be modified via lifestylechanges (eating better, exercising, smoking cessation, etc.). Alas, patientsfrequently optnot to follow such recommendations, much to the frustration—oftenexasperation—of clinicians trying to guide patients toward better health.

But many of those unhealthy patients do indeed vow to ring out their bad habitsand ring in some good ones… particularly on New Year’s Day. At the beginning ofevery January, millions of Americans initiate health-related behaviormodifications: promising to eat better, exercise more, quit smoking, etc. Andthey back it up by signing up, gearing up, and cutting down.Unfortunately, by Groundhog Day, the majority of enthusiastic individualswill have abandoned their New Year’s Day resolutions.

Getting to mid-March is not easy, especially when noticeable results aren’timmediate. Self-motivation is hard to sustain, your well-intentioned patientsare more likely to keep their eye on the prize (and their feet on thetreadmill) if they have specific health-related goals, and support fromfamily members, peers, and caregivers. For those who persevere, the benefitsmay be much greater than a gym membership.

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