Monday, December 26, 2005

Off For the Holidays

Off For the Holidays - There is nothing like the combination of family-gatherings and turkey dinner to take your mind off of healthcare for a spell. Thus, my next post will be January 9th.

I wish all Healthcare Tomorrow readers a blessed holiday season.

Monday, December 19, 2005

New Year, New Job

New Year, New Job – A few weeks ago, I shared that I was laid off from my job at the hospital. I am happy to announce that I will be joining Xpediate Consulting LLC in the new year. Xpediate has created a software application that helps hospitals prepare for their JCAHO survey and then maintain continual readiness. I will be helping the company develop its software application and add functionality.

This is an exciting company and an exciting new role for me, but I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about the opportunity at first. If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am passionate about hospitals and healthcare. At first, I was concerned that this job would remove me from hospitals and I would loose touch with all the great things that hospitals are doing to improve healthcare. However, I have come to learn that I will be a part of improving healthcare in a different way. As this application evolves, it will give hospitals an even greater ability to manage their quality improvement programs. As the industry moves towards the electronic medical record, computer applications, like ours, will be all the more necessary for improving quality and communicating results with the various stakeholders.

In thinking about this blog, there is no doubt that my new focus on healthcare IT and patient safety/quality will impact the topics about which I write. As always, my hope is that readers will find the posts interesting and helpful. I am still invested in the future of hospitals and healthcare. Perhaps in my new role, I can help shape that future.

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.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence – This past week my family went to Disneyland and stayed in a hotel close to the park. I would highly recommend staying close to the park, except for one drawback. After a long day of rides and standing in lines to meet the characters, our kids were ready for bed or falling asleep right about the time…the fireworks started. Our hotel room shook with every boom, crackle, and whistle of the 15 to 20 minute long shows. To say the least, the noise was not conducive to relaxation and sleep.

While it usually isn’t due to fireworks, hospitals are noisy places as well. All the beeps, pages, machines, squeaky wheels, conversations, and general comings and goings of a typical nursing floor create a cacophony in their own right. A noisy hospital has been shown to impact patient sleep, nursing productivity, and even contribute to medical errors. So is there anything a hospital can do besides continual shushing?

As a matter of fact, there is. The November 2005 issue of Healthcare Design (a publication of The Center for Health Design) has a great article on sound masking, a technology that essentially dampens ambient noise through speakers mounted in the ceiling. Known in the past as “white noise,” modern systems produce sounds that are just as effective and more pleasant to the listener. Apparently, the systems also promote privacy by “muting” conversations to people not in the immediate vicinity.

You may not think that noise is a significant problem in your facility, but there is a simple test you can do to see if noise is an issue. Go up onto a nursing unit and stand near a nurse’s station or a patient room. Then close your eyes and listen for all the different noises. Now imagine that you are in pain or nauseous or nervous. You may be surprised by what you hear and how much it bothers you.

There are a lot of programs to improve the patient experience. Providing peace and quiet is the least we can do.