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Better Environments Lead To Happier Patients

by Luke Molnar

By Michael Crosby.

For many patients, a medical examination or procedure can sometimes be a harrowing prospect or experience. Many medical sites, especially medical imaging departments, are now turning to aesthetics to not only reduce patient anxiety, but also to improve efficiency and profits. Imagine having to go for an MRI examination where, adding to the anxiety you feel about your health, you need to lay down within the bore of a large medical machine while doors are closed and it hums all around you. There is little wonder as to why this type of experience can trigger strong feelings of fear, anxiety and nervousness. As a result, both time and money can often be lost if patients, particularly children, fail to show up, refuse a procedure or require sedation.

Most medical departments have been designed to be functional rather than beautiful, and little thought has traditionally been given to patient comfort during many medical examinations or procedures. Recently, situations such as those just mentioned are becoming far too common for the liking of practice owners or departmental managers.

Fortunately, more and more public and private healthcare sites are turning to aesthetics to improve things.

A significant amount of research has suggested that the appropriate use of pleasant environments, especially those centred around nature, reduces stress (Tyson, Lambert & Beattie, 2002), improves health outcomes (Parsons and Hartig, 2001; Ulrich, 1999), supports pain management (Ulrich, 1984), and promotes a sense of overall well-being among patients, visitors, and staff (Mack, 2001).

A number of options are available catering for most budgets. Among others, simulated ceilings and windows, effect lighting, equipment projections or coverings, wall papers and props. The end result of using an integrated combination or even single one of these seems to be a happier patient. But it is not only patients that a benefiting. Staff too, have been quoted as saying they experience increased levels of moral as a result of the simulations. The site itself also benefits financially with profits up due to increased efficiencies resulting from less patient no-shows, refusals and sedations needed as well as better staff performance.

Such environmental simulations are particularly effective in paediatrics where young patients are prone to experience strong negative emotions when undergoing examinations or procedures.