When you think back to your childhood, you would probably have a core memory of a hospital visit. Whether this memory is good or bad depends on many factors, including the hospital environment, the staff, and the treatment itself. Now, think of how your young patients feel when they visit your practice. Do they tend to be anxious, wary, or scared while in the clinic?
When clinics are stressful or uncomfortable for children, it also has a negative effect on their parents. Thus, improving the patient experience for kids also helps reduce the burden on their families as well.
To improve young patients’ experience in your clinic or urgent care business, here are some strategies you can try:
1. Make the environment welcoming
Traditional clinic environments can be stressful for patients, especially for children. Instead of white walls and harsh lighting, create a more inviting environment with calming colors, soft lighting, comfortable furniture, and homely decorations. A warm and welcoming environment is beneficial for both old and young patients, reducing their stress and making up for an overall positive experience.
2. Create a space just for kids
Even if your practice is not pediatric-centered, having a space for children is highly beneficial. Create a place with soft play mats, toys, books, and small furniture where kids can pass the time while waiting for their turn. Having this type of space will also make the waiting time more bearable for both the children and their parents since kids always get bored fast.
3. Retrain staff in communication
The clinic staff is almost always busy, sometimes so much so that they don’t communicate as well as they should with parents. When this happens, parents can become even more anxious, thus decreasing the quality of their experience.
Here are some strategies that your staff can use to improve communication with parents:
- Explain diagnoses and treatment options in simple, easy-to-understand language
- Show empathy to parents and their children
- Update parents on wait times
- Ask questions and address concerns as soon as possible
- Express sympathy to parent’s concerns
- Distract children by asking them questions about school, hobbies, etc.
4. Play music
Music is known to help ease anxiety and fear. Play music with relaxing tempos in the waiting room as well as in the treatment rooms to help relieve a young patient’s discomfort. Similarly, play music at a soft volume–not too loud to be distracting nor too soft to be barely audible.
5. Provide treats
Offering a reward often improves children’s moods better than anything else. You can opt for candy or other sweets, but this can make children hyperactive. Alternatively, you can offer healthier snacks or small tokens, such as toys or stickers.
6. Educate children and parents
While you’re educating the parents about the diagnoses and treatment options, it’s just as important to educate the children as well. For example, flip through a picture book that explains their illness or a certain body part. Erasing much of the unknown can help children feel more at ease and even look forward to their next visit.
Moreover, it is also a good idea to encourage parents to educate their kids about their diagnosis or treatment before they come to the clinic. When you tell them the same thing that their parents did, it can increase their confidence in you.
7. Reduce pain
Pain is sometimes inevitable in certain treatments, such as vaccinations. You can make the experience a lot less stressful for patients, parents, and staff alike by using an instant topical anesthetic, for example. Apart from making the experience less as pain-free as possible, it can also reduce children’s anxiety for the next time they come to the clinic.
8. Have comfort items
Encourage parents to bring a comfort item during their visits, such as a favorite toy, blanket, or stuffed animal. For older children, they can find comfort in their gadgets, so make sure to provide outlets where they can charge their devices.
Consider having comfort items in treatment rooms as well. Sometimes, parents might forget to take a comfort item, and in that case, you can offer some to patients while they receive treatment. A special teddy bear or a comfortable pillow would suffice.
9. Play videos or movies
Children are easily distracted by a screen, and you can use this to your advantage. Play a children’s movie in the lobby or an educational video designed for kids.
It’s impossible to erase children’s anxiety completely, but you can make their patient experience as positive as it can be by employing these tactics. More importantly, improving the patient experience will help families get the care that they need in a safe, stress-free environment.