Although there's not much doctors can do about patients suffering from unavoidable pain, such as condition symptoms and side effects from treatment, they can reduce avoidable suffering caused by snags in the system, especially emotional suffering.
Thomas Lee, M.D., of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and colleagues are on a mission to reduce the physical pain, fear, anxiety and discomfort associated with patient suffering, Becker's Hospital Review reported.
Lee, who also serves as chief medical officer for Press Ganey, recommended several strategies to reduce patient suffering, including:
Define patient suffering and reduce it. "The time has come to deconstruct suffering--break it down into meaningful categories that reflect the experience of patients and help caregivers identify opportunities to reduce it," Lee and a colleague wrote in a November blog post for the Harvard Business Review. "Those that can accurately categorize, measure and mitigate their patients' suffering most effectively will be rewarded with greater market share as well as the loyalty and retention of clinicians and other personnel."
Gather feedback from patients about their experience in the healthcare system. Use that data to identify problems, such a breakdown in staff communications skills that made a patient's stay less than ideal. "That avoidable suffering that is organization derived . . . identifying it as such and labeling it as such, I think that people in healthcare will respond to that challenge. That's why we're in healthcare, after all: to relieve suffering," Lee told Becker's.
Make it obvious to patients what doctors do to help them. Simple steps like making an effort to send an email to other colleagues involved in a patient's case while the patient is there, will make it apparent that all doctors are up to speed on his or her condition."There's clearly a change underway toward being organized around patients' needs," Lee said.
Pain management also plays a role in patient satisfaction scores, according to a recent study, and one way to boost them is through an interdisciplinary approach developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to treat pain, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The protocol includes an intense three-week "boot camp" for inpatients that aims to improve function and decrease reliance on pain medications by improving function, eliminating opioids and using tools to assess pain.