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Patient Suffering

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By Robert Geimer

Going to a hospital or a doctor’s office often brings its own kind of suffering – long waits, poor communication, being awakened in the middle of the night for a routine blood draw.  In some cases the patient experience is worse than the medical condition being treated.  Some hospitals and physician groups, however, are focusing on reducing patient suffering caused by their own doing.  As described in an article in The New York Times, things as simple as reducing the amount of noise at night in hospitals are allowing better sleep and a better patient experience.  In an effort to avoid needlessly waking patients at night for routine blood draws, one physician in charge ordered that they be done only if necessary – and if it was medically necessary, he would expect to be awakened and notified.  No one ever called him.

These efforts should be commended and encouraged.  Not only will they reduce needless patient suffering, they are also likely to result in fewer medical errors.  Reducing waiting times and improving physician-patient communication will make for fewer mistakes and happier patients.  Yale-New Haven Hospital has a medical director for patient experience.  I would encourage all hospitals to make such an appointment and allow that person to effect real change to improve their patients’ experiences.

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