Long waits, harsh lighting, loud noises and a sense of powerlessness can make a hospital visit confusing and uncomfortable for both parents and their children. The following tips can help you ensure your young patients, and their parents, have a positive experience while visiting your facility.
1. Create a Welcoming Environment
Sterile, white spaces are the norm for most hospital environments, but they can increase anxiety — especially in children. Rooms and common spaces that feature comfortable furniture, soft lighting, friendly artwork and soothing colors can help your patients, and their families, feel less stressed and improve the patient experience.
It’s difficult for children to get the sleep they need to recuperate if they’re continually exposed to noise. Installing noise-absorbing flooring and ceiling tiles and eliminating public address systems in favor of secure, HIPAA-compliant text messaging can help reduce noise and promote restful sleep.
2. Develop a Shared Decision-Making Process
Shared Decision Making (SDM) allows children and parents to participate in decisions about care and treatment. During an SDM session, a healthcare practitioner explains the diagnosis, offers treatment options, helps patients evaluate those options and supports their decisions. Although parents will need to make major decisions, they can still involve their children in decisions about more minor issues, such as the flavor of medication the child prefers or the color of a cast. When children participate in decisions regarding their care, they may be more engaged and compliant.
3. Improve Staff-Patient Communication
In a busy hospital setting, communication between patients, parents and staff often suffers. Your staff may feel they have effectively presented relevant information, while parents might have a very different opinion. A good communication strategy starts with the human touch. Staff can improve communications by showing empathy, using simple language to explain diagnoses and treatment options, providing updates on wait times, asking open-ended questions and addressing concerns sympathetically.
Creating a doctor-patient communication plan provides medical staff with a checklist of essential topics of conversation and ensures patients know how to get in touch with a doctor or other member of the treatment team if they need clarification regarding a diagnosis or treatment.
4. Hire Child Life Specialists
Child life specialists have many of the same responsibilities as traditional patient advocates, but work solely with younger patients. In addition to acting as a liaison between parents, patients and hospital staff when problems occur, child life specialists are trained to address children’s concerns with age-appropriate responses to questions.
5. Encourage Patients to Bring Comfort Items from Home
A favorite toy, stuffed animal or book can help a child feel more at home during a hospital stay. Older children and teenagers feel disconnected from the world if they can’t use their phones, play video games or use laptops or iPads. Encourage children to bring their favorite games and movies, and provide video game systems and DVD players in each room. Ample outlets in rooms and public spaces will ensure patients — and their parents — can charge phones and other devices during their stay.
Children have special needs that must be taken into consideration when hospitals take steps to improve the patient experience. Creating a welcoming, open environment will increase patient satisfaction and make visiting the hospital a more pleasant experience for children and their families.
A positive patient experience starts with patient-centered care. To learn more, check out our free eBook on Increasing Satisfaction through Patient-Centered Care.