Medical care can be stressful - even simple diagnostic procedures that are completely noninvasive. It's not uncommon to be nervous and anxious when seeing a medical care provider; many patients who come to RAI already have some level of anxiety about an existing underlying medical issue or worrisome symptoms for which a cause hasn't yet been identified. On top of that, many patients have a natural anxiety about receiving any type of medical care. In some cases, this anxiety is so pervasive, it can cause physiological changes, including a significant temporary elevation in blood pressure. So many patients experience measurable levels of anxiety when visiting a medical facility, researchers have given the phenomenon a name - "white coat hypertension."
Considering stress can trigger a cascade of negative events inside the body, it's no surprise researchers have begun to study how to help patients overcome their anxiety about receiving medical care. What they've found is that many medical facilities are falling far short in creating a relaxing environment where the patient is at the center of all that's going on.
For patients, the anxiety can begin long before they arrive at the medical facility, usually as the date for their appointment draws near. As a result, once a patient arrives for their appointment, their level of anxiety can already be fairly high. A lot of that anxiety comes from knowing they'll have to spend some time sitting in the waiting room. And for most medical practices, that waiting time is spent in an environment that's filled with harsh light and uncomfortable furnishings - in fact, many waiting rooms feel like they've been designed with anything but comfort in mind. Not surprisingly, in a recent survey of 2,000 patients a full 63% of patients said the pre-visit wait was the most stressful part of seeing a medical professional.
Communication Reduces Anxiety
Another factor contributing to patient anxiety: Lack of clear communication - not just with the medical practitioner, but with office staff as well. In fact, in a study that evaluated patient satisfaction specifically with radiology centers, researchers found only a small fraction of patient complaints and dissatisfaction were related to the radiologist while a whopping 86% were related to the quality of service and care the patients received in other areas of the practice. Professionalism and courtesy of the receptionist, billing staff and other office personnel were the factors that were most significant in determining whether or not a patient was satisfied and happy with their experience at the facility, along with the quality and "readability" of the final report.
The same study found patients were much more relaxed when the imaging facility support staff was more engaged, friendlier and warmer in their approach to patient communication, and tended to view - and rate - the facility much higher than when staff were unfriendly, cold or unhelpful.
Communication about the procedure and the results also plays a primary role in reducing patient anxiety. One of the common concerns among patients at radiology centers is not understanding the procedure they're about to have. Fear of the unknown contributes significantly to the level of anxiety a patient feels at every phase of care, yet many medical practices and facilities fail to provide patients with full information about their care or provide a lot of information that's simply too technical for many patients to fully understand. In fact, providing patients with jargon-filled "educational materials" can exacerbate anxiety by increasing patient frustration or enhancing the misconception that a procedure is "scary" or more complicated than it really is.
RAI: Patients Are Our Priority
At RAI, we're deeply committed to the welfare and comfort of our patients at every step of their care - from the moment they call the office to schedule an appointment all the way through the day of their appointment and even beyond. When we designed our facilities, we gathered information about patient needs and expectations as well as their concerns and stress factors. Then we set out to create an experience that addresses all those factors while still ensuring we provide the highest-quality, state-of-the-art imaging services available today. We want our patients to feel like valued guests from the moment they enter the front door and throughout their entire experience. In fact, many of our patients compare the design and comfort of our waiting areas with upscale hotel lobbies.
When it comes to communication, we apply the same level of care and attention to detail, ensuring our patients receive clear, understandable, complete information about their procedures so they feel confident in their care and empowered about their health. We know that when patients are educated about their care, they're happier, more relaxed and more likely to follow through with additional care recommendations so they can enjoy optimal health and wellness.
Call RAI Today
As a leading radiology provider in Central New Jersey and Bucks County, PA., RAI offers the highest-quality, state-of-the-art imaging services available to diagnose medical issues and help guide treatment. Let us help you get the best care you can. If your doctor has ordered an MRI, ultrasound, CT scan or other radiology study, call RAI at 609-585-8800 and schedule an evaluation today.