Hospitals train docs, use music therapy to help teens

Hospitals across the country are reaching out to teens to make them feel more comfortable and encouraging a better patient experience through initiatives like music therapy to help cope with cancer treatments, as well as training doctors on talking about tough topics like sexuality.

New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation began a teen health improvement program two years ago to foster better communication between physicians and teens in an effort to proactively improve healthcare for the adolescents, according to an report.

Many teens cope with issues like anxiety, depression, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, and need to make healthy decisions when it comes to those topics, said HHC Healthcare Improvement Office Senior Director David Stevens.

To help doctors better interact with that demographic and foster a trusting atmosphere, the program brings in trained patient actors to pose as teens looking for information about contraception. The actors make note of how the doctor spoke to them, paying attention to aspects like "[d]id the doctor ask open ended questions and let the patient talk without interruption, did the doctor use language that the patient felt comfortable, not using jargon, not using words to make them sound cool," Stevens said.

After receiving positive feedback from doctors about improved patient interactions, HHC plans to give the training annually. 

Making adolescents feel more comfortable and helping them cope can actually improve their treatment process. A new study published online in the journal Cancer found music therapy intervention among adolescents and young adults who underwent stem cell transplants as part of cancer treatment increased their ability to cope with their treatment and boosted their resilience.

Researchers from Indiana University tested music therapy intervention on 113 patients, aged 11 to 24, assigning them to either a therapeutic music-video making group or a group where everyone received audio books, for six sessions over a three-week period, according to the study abstract. Individuals in the music-video group, who participated in activities that included writing song lyrics, making sound recordings and collecting video images, reported significantly better "courageous coping skills," according to the study.

The coping tools that they learn during music therapy will last a lifetime, Shawna Grissom, director of child life at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, in Memphis, Tenn., told Health. "We're not just working on these skills for in the moment," she said. "We're working for lifelong skills. We don't see this as individual patients coping just now or just during the months they're here, but what we can give them for life."

More than 26,000 U.S. healthcare facilities offer music therapy, providing services for nearly a million patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Louisville, Ky.-based Norton Healthcare expanded its music therapy program last year, spending $400,000 at Norton Audubon Hospital to include a performance space, a music library, a music classroom for patients and a concert grand piano.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the Health article
- check out the study abstract