HealthcareTomorrow

Monday, December 12, 2005

You Are Feeling Better As You Read This

You Are Feeling Better As You Read This – Ever since I was introduced to it in high school, I was fascinated by the concept of the placebo effect. The idea that an innocuous stimulus, like a sugar pill, could create such a powerful response in the human mind and body intrigued me. I always thought that it should be put to better use than just being one of the test groups in a scientific experiment. According to this article in the LA Times, researchers have been working on methods for harnessing the power of the placebo effect for actual treatment.

The growing evidence surrounding the placebo effect reinforces the importance of the mind/body connection to healing. For healthcare providers, this should serve as yet another reminder of the importance of the patient experience. Every stimulus in a hospital, from the attitude of the care givers to the atmosphere of the patient room, will have an impact on the healing process of the patient. Is the patient bored? She may lose her drive to rehabilitate. Does the light in the corner flicker constantly? The patient may get annoyed and experience more pain. Does the patient feel guilty about being a burden on his family? He may lose the will to live.

Healthcare providers often say that they attend to the whole patient – body, mind, and spirit – but do they really put as much weight on the impact of the mind (and spirit) on healing as they do on physiological? If studies showed that a half-hour conversation with a social worker or the patient’s best friend lowered pain or blood pressure or LOS (length of stay), would physicians prescribe it? I would certainly hope so.

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