It is an extra step to make in the software system, but this patient education for anxiety could help older patients …
A recent Patient Point survey revealed a surprising fact about health care, including chiropractic — a majority of your patients are afraid to visit. The survey found that 39% of Americans surveyed felt anxious before going to their doctor’s appointment, and that 69% of Americans are worried that they don’t have a complete understanding of the terminology used by their health care professional, underlying the need for patient education for anxiety.
The same 69% of participants wished they knew how to describe their symptoms in a way that their health care provider would understand, and a third of the patients surveyed felt they didn’t have enough information that would help them prepare for the visit.
And the anxiety didn’t stop before they arrived at the office. Many patients experienced anxiety when waiting for their names to be called, and they felt stressed if they had to wait in the exam room for a while before their doctor came into the room.
Trust is key to a good practitioner/client relationship, and building that trust should begin even before your client comes to see you for the first time.
Where do you begin?
You begin addressing patient education for anxiety by helping your patient feel good about visiting even before their first appointment. Instead of having a patient come to the office and spend time filling out paperwork before going into the exam room, send questionnaires and other relevant paperwork via email to be filled out in advance.
You could also include educational materials about symptoms the patient may be experiencing. Ask the patient to make a list of any medications or supplements they are taking – they can take inventory at home, and add to the list if they need to, instead of anxiously guessing while sitting in the office waiting room. You might also send a reminder ahead of the appointment, reminding them to bring this paperwork with them. It is an extra step to make in the software system, but this patient education for anxiety could help older patients and reduce their stress.
Patient education for anxiety: waiting rooms and exam rooms
Is your waiting room inviting and inclusive, or is it cold and imposing? Here are a few patient education for anxiety tips to make sure your patients are comfortable during their wait:
- Staff communication. Are clients being greeted as soon as they walk in the door? Make sure your front office staff is friendly, listens to any information a client offers regarding their pain or their concerns, and shows compassion for their situation.
- Have comfortable furniture available. Try out your waiting room furniture — would you want to spend any time there?
- Switch out headache-triggering fluorescent lights for soft, homey lighting in the waiting area.
- Use white noise or other noise filters to reduce stress brought on by uncomfortable silence, or the rote clicking of computer keyboards.
- Offer a variety of reading materials which includes educational pamphlets as well as publications that might appeal to your clients (if you cater to sports enthusiasts, have a number of sports publications in hand, generation-appropriate materials for older adults or children, etc.).
- Offer Wi-Fi, so clients can do work or answer emails during their wait.
- Keep wait times to a minimum, both in the waiting room and the exam room.
In the exam room
After your assistant has guided your client to an exam room, is the client left alone to wait? This could affect an already-anxious patient. Here are a few ways to reduce the stress:
- Ask if the patient would like a magazine or a glass of water, or if they would like to listen to music while they are waiting.
- Staff could use this time to gather some medical information, ask about symptoms or levels of pain, or have a friendly conversation about things that are going on with them. You could include a few notes — do they have an anniversary coming up, or have they had a new grandchild since they last came into the office? Chats like these can lower stress.
- Guide the client through any procedures so they understand what will happen during the appointment. Keep language to a level that is easily understood. Talk in a calm tone of voice, and make sure you listen well, and allow plenty of time to answer questions or address concerns.
After the exam
Staff should go over any information and treatments, and explain the need for supplements or orthotics. Ask if the client understands everything that was discussed during the exam, and allow more time if the client needs more information.
Make appointment setting as easy as possible using computer-generated appointment systems as well as appointment cards and reminders. Schedule a follow-up call to check in on clients who have anxiety over visits or treatments. In the end, this extra time is well spent if your patient feels good about visiting your office, understands treatment options, and moves forward in their health and well-being journey.