Healthcare Facilities Can Help Patients Feel Better To Heal Better

I found myself unexpectedly out of the office recently. Most of the day was spent waiting around. Fortunately, I landed in a 10th floor room with a nice view, and the facility had a good WiFi connection. It wasn’t quite the same as being in the office, but I could get a lot done. 

That’s not the way I would have expected to describe an overnight stay in the hospital, where I wound up for observation after what happily turned out to be a false alarm.

Hospitals certainly have changed, but if I’m any indication, people haven’t. Consider what happened while I was brushing my teeth and had a few moments to contemplate my hospital-gowned reflection in a nice, but unmistakably institutional, bathroom. To be honest, I didn’t look so good. The telemetry device in the breast pocket made my ill-fitting gown sag even more than it did on its own. I was tired. I hadn’t shaved or showered. I had an IV feed in my arm, and a cluster of cables reached out from under the gown.

As I started imagining being in the hospital for a few days, I couldn’t believe how much my spirits sank, even though physically I was fine — and emotionally I had felt that way just moments before. I snapped out of my funk as soon as I stepped back into the room.

Earlier in the day, a couple of my caregivers advised me, half-humorously, to get out of the hospital as quickly as I could. It’s advice I’ve heard before, and I always thought it had to do with the risk of hospital-acquired infections or medical errors. But now I can see that there’s another side to it. No matter how good the care you’re receiving (and mine was top notch) the awareness that you’re in the hospital because you’re sick, and maybe very sick, takes a psychological toll that can’t be good for your body. The corollary: the less you think about being in the hospital, the better.

I consider my experience a small experiment. On its statistically invalid evidence, I’m convinced that the work put into making hospitals more welcoming must be paying off in helping patients feel better so they heal better.