- Monitor for events likely to trigger emotional spikes
Side effects, hair loss, worsening finances, or day when the patient learns the cancer hasn’t been cured are some of the events that increase emotion. Many of these can be anticipated or asked about on a regular basis.
- Communicate with care
Body language, word choice, voice tone, and facial expressions are more likely to affect anxious patients. They want compassion and reassurance. Peter Eisenberg, the founder of Marin Cancer Center, suggests saying, “Let’s focus on how well you can live, not how long you will live.” Identify “never phrases” such as “There is nothing left to do.”
- Enhance patients’ control
Providing patients with a direct contact helps them feel more in control of their situation. Bellin gives every patient a coach who meets the patient on the first visit with the oncologist, takes notes, sends the patient a summary, and helps the patient prepare for subsequent visits. One of my patients learned her mother had died suddenly. I gave her my telephone number to call if she needed to talk. She never called, but she later told me that just having the option of calling helped her get through the event.
- Avoid service gaps
Outpatient and palliative care support can reduce emergency department visits and hospital admissions. My experience with hospice care is they are the angels of healthcare, in many ways.
- Empower customers with mobile technology
Mayo Clinic’s myCare program provides iPads to cardiac surgery patients to read their daily plans and educational materials and work through their “to-do” lists. Dashboards alert providers for untoward events.
- Hire the right people When hiring new people, hire for values and company fit. Ask questions of your candidates to learn their actions, and include representatives from professions who will be working with the clinicians. Emotional intelligence, resilience, excellent communication skills, and the ability to have difficult conversations—these qualities are essential in clinicians who deliver high-stakes services.
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