6 ways your hospital can reduce patient anxiety
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
In a hospital, you're always trying to improve patient experience — but you might be overlooking the most crucial area that needs fixing. Anxiety is a well-established issue at varying levels for many patients facing a procedure, extensive treatment, or just waiting for test results. However, many physicians don't see the importance of systematically addressing it.
It's important to do so, though. When you take the time to find ways to reduce your patients' nerves and trepidations, customer satisfaction can skyrocket. Plus, reassurance is humane — which is the point of practicing medicine in the first place.
Implement these scientifically proven strategies to provide more calm and ensure better feedback for your organization:
Add customer reps to your radiology department.
Research from Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati found that adding representatives to a computerized radiology reading room ensures that physicians get results as quickly as possible.
This means patients can actually remain in the waiting room after testing, then see their doctors directly to get their results. This eliminates days of anxious waiting on the patient's side.
Be consistent in terms of face time.
A recent Johns Hopkins study found that good management of physician scheduling allows them to spend a consistent amount of time with each outpatient they see.
This is important, because if a patient feels shortchanged when their doctor appears to be rushing through an appointment, they may not ask all the questions they have about their health. As a result, the patient will walk out of that appointment feeling anxious about what they don't know.
Make sure your hospital clinics run efficiently, so unexpected delays don't happen.
Make sure "essential touch" is handled with empathy.
Many patients don't like the kind of "functional intimacy" that's required during an exam, according to researchers at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
Your physicians, nurses, medical assistants and PCAs can reduce the anxiety of these patients by smiling and explaining exactly when and why they are using touch before they do it. This will give patients a sense of understanding and control.
Address the needs of "frequent flyers."
Research presented by Henry Ford Hospital shows that ER "frequent flyers" — patients who use the emergency department at least 10 times a year as their primary source of health care — test the patience of between 59-77% of emergency room doctors, leading to less empathy for these patients. In turn, that can cause patient anxiety to heighten.
Identify and work to find these patients PCPs so they feel more consistently informed and cared for. Then, your ER docs will have the time to deal with actual emergencies.
Watch out for patient stereotyping.
A study from the University of Southern California found that patients who feel judged by physicians regarding their weight, age, race, gender, or social class become more distrustful, less satisfied, and less likely to seek preventative care.
All of this, obviously, can ramp up their health anxiety as a whole. Establish a no-tolerance policy for any stereotyping of patients for your personnel, and enforce it scrupulously.
Add queries to your patient satisfaction surveys regarding health anxiety. For example, you can ask, "Did you feel anxious prior to your appointment about your health?" "Did you tell your doctor you felt anxious?" "How did he or she address your anxiety?"
This is an excellent way to get a snapshot of how well your patients' needs are being met. Use their feedback to help with your physicians communicate better and ease your patients' worries — better outcomes will soon arise!
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