Having diagnostic imaging done might not be everyone's cup of tea. At least five out of ten people experience panic and anxiety before, during, and after the procedure. Even something as simple and painless as a CT Scan may trigger unwanted fear and anxiety in many patients.
This fear mostly stems from:
- Uncertainty about the procedure
- Sense of claustrophobia
- Potential radiation exposure
- Impending results
As much as this fear is reasonable, it can also be problematic, especially for imaging technologists. This patient anxiety can cause involuntary movements and affect the quality of the scanned images.
The responsibility of explaining the procedure to patients and alleviating fear, panic and anxiety lies solely with imaging technologists. As medical facilities worldwide transition from a disease-centred system to patient-oriented care, this method of emphatic patient care is a top priority.
As an imaging technologist, you are one of the first people to have contact with a patient. The way you approach patients and how you take care of their imaging diagnostics is critical to ensuring their comfort and success in treatment.
Our article explores the various ways to ease patient anxiety when they come to your diagnostic centre for tests and imaging purposes. These measures will also help you enhance patient-technologist communication and provide a better patient experience.
10 Patient-Centric Approaches To Delivering Better Imaging Experiences
1 . Acknowledge your patient
How many times have you greeted your patient before and after the procedure? A simple "Good Morning" or "How are you feeling?" will be enough to put their minds at ease. As soon as you meet your patient, introduce yourself and let them know that you are ready to clarify any doubts about the procedure.
The moment you meet the patient is the perfect time to address any concerns, answer questions, and know their medical history. It is okay to be a little friendly instead of restricting yourself to superficial questions.
Some patients may not open up about their anxiety, but they could be in a panicked state of mind. Reassure them about their safety during the procedure and help calm them down. And don't forget to smile. It can do wonders for anxiety-ridden patients.
2. Be informative and clear
The more information your patient has about their imaging procedure, the less anxious they are. Let's not forget that uncertainty plays a great role in fuelling fear. Here's what you can do to help them get rid of it:
- Explain the necessity of the test
- State the duration
- Elaborate on what they should expect
- Mention any sights and sounds they might hear during the procedure
- Encourage them to ask questions
- Provide correct answers
Talk to your patients before the procedure begins instead of bringing it up during the scan. The more information you provide, the more controlled they will be.
3. Adopt a holistic approach
To implement a holistic approach, allow your patient to participate in their healthcare plans. Give top priority to their decisions regarding the diagnostic tests. It is also okay to incorporate spiritual or faith-based elements of treatments. Your holistic approach can also include coordinating healthcare options and promoting optimum overall health.
4. Instil a sense of reassurance
As an imaging technologist, a significant part of your role is to help instil a sense of reassurance and comfort in your patient's mind. Most patients are unfamiliar with the procedure. Hence, it is better to explain the details in clear, plain, and simple language rather than complicated medical jargon. There's so much you can do to make them feel reassured and calm. You should:
- Be honest and upfront about any pain they may experience during the procedure
- Provide adequate privacy if they need to change into a medical gown for the process
- Make them feel comfortable with your presence by sitting alongside them if they are seated or lying down
- Inform them before touching them. Also, show them where you will be placing your hands and why it is necessary
- Avoid towering over patients, for it will make them feel vulnerable and powerless
5. Know your patient
You may meet many patients from different age groups on an average working day. Rather than having a routine and robotic approach to your work, take the time to know each patient because your effort makes a difference to their mindset. You can:
- Ask specific questions related to their illness and medical history
- Discuss their current health status
- Get information about previous surgeries and major treatments
- Ask about food and medication allergies
Yes, you are running a tight ship, but take a few moments to make your patients feel like you are relaxed and they can depend on you. Never make a patient feel like you are rushing through their imaging procedure. Such vibes can add to patient anxiety and result in poor quality images.
6. Understand Your Equipment
Imaging technology is continually improving and so are imaging equipment. What's in use today might become outdated in just a couple of years. As an imaging technologist, your experience comes from the number of years on the job and knowing how to handle the latest diagnostic equipment.
Knowing the current features and technology is crucial to delivering an accurate diagnosis. To stay updated:
- Modify and adapt your clinical setting to ensure patient comfort
- Use the latest positioning aids and adjust the equipment to align with the patient's position
- Have portable equipment available to help patients with unique physical needs
7. Be Paediatric-Friendly
If adults find diagnostic imaging intimidating, imagine how a child would feel under similar circumstances. However, a positive imaging experience can leave a lasting impression on children's minds. As their technologist, you can contribute to making it a worthwhile experience. The trick lies in changing your body language, attitude, understanding, patience, and interaction to suit your paediatric patients. You could:
- Familiarise them with the large machines and sounds they should expect
- Explain why they should stay still during the procedure
- Explain all the steps calmly and gently
- Have a friendly approach while interacting and preparing them
- Keep the parents well-informed of what to expect
- Include your paediatric patients in any prior discussions
It takes extra effort to instil a sense of trust and reassurance in young patients. However, it is crucial to master the art of handling children to ensure a successful imaging experience.
8. Explain the details
Many patients may not understand the purpose of an IV contrast or why the MRI machine is noisy. They may feel agitated if you suddenly give them an intravenous injection without explaining the what and why. It is only fair that you explain every single process during the exam.
As in the case of IV contrasts, explain why the medication is administered and whether it has any side effects. If it is an MRI scan, provide them with earplugs to reduce the noise. But be sure to warn patients about what kind of noise to expect. If the patient requires a brain scan, they may have to wear a positioning device. Explain why the device is used and make them feel comfortable when attaching it.
Do not forget to ask patients if they are claustrophobic. Try offering them eye covers to deal with claustrophobia during the procedure.
9. Be kind and compassionate
Treat your patient as you would expect to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes to better understand their anxiety. Never pass flippant remarks about their fear. Instead, create an atmosphere that encourages your patient to disclose their fears and seek help. This is a win-win situation where you can get the desired imaging results, and they can overcome their fear about diagnostic exams.
10. Make yourself available
Some patients tend to worry that they are all alone in the imaging room and they cannot reach technologists when they want to. First-timers are especially prone to such fears. Prior to the procedure, assure your patients that they are safe and always watched over. You can also show them what to do in case they require your assistance.
Make Patients Feel At Ease With The Right Strategies
As a technologist, you play an instrumental role in the diagnostic procedures of thousands of patients. Your success largely depends on your approach and communication skills. A positive approach leads to better clinical outcomes and a valuable reputation for your facility.
At Anderson Diagnostics, Chennai, our technologists have the experience, training, and expertise to help ease your fears and provide a positive imaging experience. Click here to fix an appointment for your diagnostic test.