Having a doctor’s appointment isn’t the type of event that has me jumping out of bed first thing in the morning and anxious to get my day started. Regardless, I needed an ultrasound on my neck and throat and I felt apprehensive. Would the procedure hurt? Would the doctor be able to diagnose the cause of my discomfort? Doctors, specialists, technicians, dentists and their office staff often forget that patients feel anxiety. Rather than add apprehension to an already stressed patient, medical professionals can implement several techniques that limit patient anxiety and increase comfort.
Before the appointment
Answering the phone with courtesy demonstrates respect and is the first step toward establishing good patient rapport. Using a kind tone of voice and offering assistance without being prompted gives patients confidence in the medical staff. The attitude of the front office staff conveys the practice’s overall attitude. I always feel respected and comfortable when the receptionist welcomes and addresses me by my surname and focuses on me instead of on personal conversations. Returning a patient’s phone message promptly lets a patient know they’re important.
After the initial check-in, the waiting room provides patients with insight into the care they’ll receive. Dirty carpets, outdated magazines and uncomfortable chairs shake my confidence. Doctors should sit in their waiting room and look at it through the eyes of a patient. Having some music playing or a TV on can help ease a patient’s mind while waiting. Clean surroundings will instill confidence and soothe a patient who might be worried about meeting with the doctor. A variety of current reading materials and comfortable seating are necessities as well, especially for patients who might be waiting a while to see their physician.
During the exam or procedure
After the nurse ushers me into the exam room, I want to feel safe. I want reassurances that my physical needs are important, especially if the exam or procedure might be painful. Compassionate nurses, clean exam rooms with limited visible equipment and privacy window treatments can add a sense of security.
During my ultrasound, the technician used several techniques that helped me relax. First, she showed me the equipment with a description of what its purpose was and the records that indicated the most recent date of service. She broke down what a tee probe does and informed me of the repair schedule for it to make sure that patients get the most accurate readings possible. The technician instructed me to lie down on the table and suggested I focus on the skylight covers to keep calm before the relaxation medication kicked in.
Other comforting techniques medical personnel can employ include making casual and compassionate conversation, warming instruments before touching them to a patient’s skin, pre-filling syringes before injections and offering fun Band-Aids after an injection or blood draw – even if the patient is an adult.
Follow-up after the procedure
After a medical appointment, the staff can reinforce their caring attitude and continue patient comfort with follow-up communication, whether checking on a patient or scheduling a future appointment. Double-checking that a patient’s contact information is correct, quick callbacks during after-hours emergencies and convenient email communication effectively build trust.
Everyone appreciates a caring primary care physician, ultrasound/X-ray technician and dentist. Medical professionals will retain loyal and satisfied patients when they provide a gentle bedside manner and comforting techniques when a patient visits the office or hospital. Superior healthcare professionals choose to provide superior patient comfort.