Medical procedures can often have a profound impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. While physical side effects are usually the primary focus of discussion, the psychological side effects of medical procedures should not be overlooked.
Anxiety and stress are common feelings experienced before, during, and after a medical procedure. This can be especially true if the procedure is invasive or has a high degree of risk. Patients may worry about the outcome of the procedure, the pain it may cause, or the impact it will have on their daily life. This anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing.
Depression can also be a side effect of medical procedures. This is especially true for procedures that have long recovery times, such as surgeries, or those that cause significant changes to a person’s appearance, such as plastic surgery. Patients may feel sad, hopeless, or have a loss of interest in their usual activities. Patients may struggle with accepting the changes to their bodies and may feel self-conscious or embarrassed.
It is important to remember that everyone reacts differently to medical procedures and that these side effects can vary in intensity and duration but it’s pretty safe to assess that medical procedures can have a significant impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being and it is important to be aware of the potential psychological side effects.
Therefore, addressing patient anxiety before ongoing medical procedures is an important part of the medical professional’s role. By using a combination of communication, good communication is key to reducing anxiety in patients. Medical professionals should take the time to clearly explain the procedure, what it entails, and what to expect before, during, and after. They should also provide answers to any questions the patient may have, as well as address any concerns or worries the patient may have; empathy, patients are more likely to feel at ease if they feel understood and cared for by their medical professional. This, along with good listening skills, can help to establish trust and make the patient feel more comfortable; information, providing clear and concise information about the procedure, including the risks and benefits, can help patients feel more informed and in control. Patients should also be provided with information about what to expect during and after the procedure, such as pain management and recovery time, relaxation techniques, encouraging patients to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, or guided imagery, can help to reduce anxiety and promote calmness before the procedure; distraction techniques, reassurance, reassuring patients that the procedure is safe and that the medical team is experienced and well-equipped to handle any potential complications can help to reduce anxiety; and alternative treatments, medical professionals can help to reduce anxiety and promote a positive experience for patients.
In recent years, technology has made great strides in this topic. Digital tools have been developed to provide patients with accurate information, distraction, and relaxation techniques, all from the comfort of their own homes. Here are some of the most commonly used digital tools for reducing patient anxiety before ongoing medical procedures. Among them we can find:
- Patient education apps: These apps provide patients with detailed information about their upcoming procedure, including what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do after. They may also provide animations, videos, and illustrations to help patients better understand the procedure.
- Virtual reality tools: VR tools allow patients to experience a simulated version of the procedure in a safe and controlled environment. This can help to reduce anxiety by allowing patients to familiarize themselves with the procedure and understand what to expect.
- Relaxation and mindfulness apps: These apps provide guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, and other techniques to help patients relax and reduce anxiety. They can be used before, during, and after the procedure to promote a sense of calm.
- Distraction games: Simple games and puzzles can be a helpful distraction for patients who are feeling anxious before a procedure. These games can help take their mind off the procedure and promote a sense of calm.
- Telemedicine: Telemedicine allows patients to connect with their medical team from the comfort of their own homes. This can be especially helpful for patients who are feeling anxious about their procedure, as they can receive the support and reassurance they need from their medical team in a familiar and comfortable environment.
The anxiety and stress provoked by an upcoming medical procedure shouldn’t be overlooked because it impacts directly not only the patient’s well-being but also the efficiency of the medical procedure itself and the workload for the professional physicians. If a procedure has to be repeated because the patient was extremely shocked the first time, that means there will be extra costs and extra work for the physicians, creating a problem for all the parts involved.
In my opinion, the elderly population is still a hard rock for all the developments in this regard. They are a big part of our society, we keep increasing numbers of the population from 70 years old onwards and they are not as used to digital tools as younger people are. We can’t rely only on digitalisation to overcome all the struggles that come from this situation so we need to find either an analogue and effective solution or find a way to approach digital resources to this target group in an easy, soft and very friendly way specifically designed for them.
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- De Rosis, Sabina/Barsanti, Sara: Patient satisfaction, e-health and the evolution of the patient–general practitioner relationship: Evidence from an Italian survey. In Health Policy 120, no 11(2016), p. 1279 – 1292, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2016.09.012
- Elliot, Tania et al.: Beyond Convenience: Patients’ Perceptions of Physician Interactional Skills and Compassion via Telemedicine. InMayoClinic Proceedings: Patient’s perception, quality & outcomes 4, no3(2020), p. 305 – 314, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2020.04.009