Providing a step-by-step game plan to patients’ spouses can certainly aid in patient satisfaction.
Take it from me. I am something of an expert in this area, as my husband has had at least 10 cardioversions. He has paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, the remnants of viral-induced cardiomyopathy that hit 14 years ago.
Fortunately, his episodes have become few and far between. Unfortunately, he went into the “bad rhythm” as we call it last week for the first time in more than three years. Last week, he underwent a successful cardioversion, and he has rhythm again. (Insert joke here about a middle-aged white guy.)
This episode marked the first time I had played my recurring role of the patient’s spouse in a while. I am certainly not complaining. However, it was an interesting reminder to me about some issues that are important to this key target audience. With constant advances in medication and technology, things can change significantly in three years.
For example, the options for anticoagulation have changed, as Pradaxa seems to have replaced Coumadin as the first-line drug of choice. The rules for how to take it and how it has to be monitored are quite different from what we’ve experienced before.
Additionally, the hospital where he had his procedure has expanded its facilities greatly since we were last there. That’s good news for many reasons, but it was kind of confusing to me because the location and the order in which we did things were much different from before. For example, prior to his cardioversion, the doctor performed a transesophageal echocardiogram to ensure he had no blood clots, thereby reducing the risk of stroke. This procedure used to be handled in a completely separate room on a completely different floor. Now, the hospital does both procedures in the same room, one right after the other, using the same anesthesiologist. This is a nice improvement in many ways, but it really surprised me at the time.
These are just a couple of examples, but they got me thinking as I sat in the waiting room. Wouldn’t it be great if the spouse received an “agenda” for the day at outpatient registration? It could have the day’s scheduled events, locations, approximate timeframe and names of key personnel who would be involved – very much like an agenda we prepare for meetings at an office. It really doesn’t seem that hard to do for scheduled procedures, and it would be very valuable in terms of patient peace of mind.
Even for “veterans” like me, uncertainty and confusion about what is supposed to happen next can cause undue stress. I am thankful that everything turned out well, and I don’t want to do it again soon. But in some ways, I’m happy to get an occasional reminder about the important role communication plays in patient satisfaction. What are you doing at your hospital to make spouses feel more informed?