5 Ways Health Providers Can Help Reduce Patient Stress Without Drugs
Whether you’re treating a high-powered executive or a trembling tot, always keep in mind that your patient’s visit can be a daunting experience for them. Approximately 20 percent of Americans experience white coat syndrome (a phenomenon in which blood pressure surges during a consultation), while many more let their fear of doctors and hospitals keep them from seeking vital treatment. Although a fear response is perfectly normal in a stressful situation, a patient’s fear can also hinder our ability to diagnose and treat them effectively. Thus, it’s hugely important to be aware of patient anxiety and how to effectively treat it. What are the best ways to reduce patient stress without drugs? 1. Make Your Patient Feel Valued and Understood As most doctor visits total around 15 minutes, patients can often feel like cattle. If your patient feels that you are simply trying to get them in and out as quickly as possible, they may become anxious and less able to recall important signs and symptoms. To avoid this, adopt an open posture, angling your body toward the other person as they speak. Make eye contact, nod and ask questions where appropriate. This will reassure your patient that they are not just a number and that you can be trusted to look after their best interests. 2. Embrace Technology to Keep Patients in the Loop In recent times, technology usage has soared. In order to keep up with patients (particularly millennials), it’s important to maintain an online presence for your clinic. Begin by utilizing tech that reduces stress. For example, consider uploading videos that showcase your facilities. Clean, bright operating rooms and doctors’ offices will give your practice a sense of professionalism that will lower patient anxiety levels. Another way to put patients at ease is to create video introductions for all practicing doctors. These brief introductions will give doctors a chance to display their personalities and show a less clinical, more human side that patients can relate to. Studies have shown that patients who dislike or distrust their doctors are less likely to accurately disclose their symptoms. 3. Improve their Sex Lives Patients can manage their stress much more easily if they have a healthy outlet for their sexual energy. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that subjects that have sex at least once a week have stronger immune systems and lower stress levels than those that did not. If patients lack an adequate means of sexual expression, their doctors can recommend a good online sex therapist. 4. Create a Pleasant Environment While maintaining a clean, sterile environmental is important for both professionalism and health reasons, a sparse white office can set off anxiety in patients. In order to combat this anxiety, add a little color to the room in the form of bright paintings or plastic indoor plants. If you have a sense of humor, a cartoon or silly poster poking fun at illness or doctors is a great choice, as laughter is strongly linked to anxiety management. 5. Offer Home Visits It’s not always practical for us to offer home visits. However, for elderly patients or patients with extreme GAD, a video-based consultation or an occasional house call may be invaluable. Examining patients with anxiety in the safety of their own home is an effective way of combating white coat syndrome and encouraging patients who are genuinely terrified of doctors’ offices to seek treatment. 6. Encourage Deep Breathing Breathing techniques have long been known to help with stress and anxiety. Although you have limited consultation time, devoting the first two minutes to breathing exercises may help your patient provide better information (and more accurate test readings) that can streamline the rest of the appointment. Research the relaxing breath exercise, which involves having patients inhale through the nose for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven and then exhale through the mouth for a count of eight. After a few cycles, the patient’s anxiety should diminish. It may be tempting to treat anxious individuals with drugs, but we owe it to our patients to try less invasive stress-reducing procedures first. Next time you have a tricky client on file, remember that your demeanor, office and online presence can have a dramatic impact on how comfortable your patient feels in your care.