Social and emotional support plays a key role in healthcare, with improved social integration and emotional interaction both having positive effects on overall patient outcomes.1
For hospices navigating the shift to patient-centered care models, this is especially critical, since the provision of consistent and compassionate emotional support can help improve the end-of-life experience for both patients and their families. But it’s one thing to recognize the value of increased emotional connection in hospice healthcare — it’s another to overcome emerging challenges and implement this practice at scale.
Here are three suggestions for cultivating patient-centric hospice care and emotional support:
1. Strike the Right Balance Between Everyday Tasks and Supporting the Patient
A study reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health noted that more than one-third of patients said they avoided seeking medical care because they were worried about unfavorable evaluations and communications from healthcare professionals.2 Some felt medical staff didn’t listen to their concerns, while others perceived a general lack of care.
Recent research, meanwhile, found that in order for hospice staff to overcome this and create emotional connections, it’s critical to treat patients as more than the sum of their symptoms.3 But evolving requirements around documentation and compliance make this a significant challenge, with staff spending more time recording patient data and logging changes instead of engaging with patients directly. Hospice-specific software tools can help reduce redundant work — such as navigating generalized documentation formats — and allowing staff to strike the right balance between logging in a day’s work and supporting a patient directly.
2. Find Solutions That Allow Clinicians to Spend More Time With Patients
Another study reported that sixty-one percent of nurses surveyed expressed general frustration with EHR systems, while hospice workers highlighted the specific problem of wasted time.4,5 From tablets continually updating to long wait times for IT response, many healthcare staff have reached a technology tipping point.
The result isn’t surprising: More time spent wrestling with technology means less time to forge emotional connections and greater difficulty meeting patient-centric care standards. Solving this challenge requires hospice care software that streamlines common tasks such as patient referrals, admissions and scheduling and lets staff focus on what they do best: Connect with patients under their care.
3. Reduce Stress by Relying on Efficient Technologies
Seventy-eight percent of hospice nurses are at moderate to high risk of “compassion fatigue” as a result of ongoing patient care.6 While root causes vary from avoidance behavior or psychological issues on the part of patients, to the challenges in dealing with negative reactions from patient families, staff face significant stress in providing emotional support to patients nearing end-of-life.
Caregiver stress is further increased by a nationwide staff shortage of skilled hospice professionals, leaving those on the front lines caring for multiple patients simultaneously.7 Attempting to forge unique emotional connections with each resident based on their personality, current care status and end-of-life plans is challenging at the best of times — and nearly impossible as the number of patients per staff member ramps up.
To address this issue, hospices need tools and technologies designed to reduce stress by limiting complexity and friction. While there’s no way to avoid the natural stress that comes with facilitating the end-of-life experience, hospices can enhance patient-centered efforts with patients by removing professional process roadblocks.
Lay the groundwork for improved emotional support and enhanced hospice practices with purpose-built EHR solutions from NetHealth. See what sets us apart.
Five Key Stressors Hospice Professionals Face, with Guidance for Support
By Joy Berger, DMA, FT, BCC, MT-BC, Founder and CEO of Composing Life out of Loss
1 NCBI, “Social and Emotional Support and its Implication for Health,” August 20, 2009.
2 NCBI, “Why do People Avoid Medical Care? A Qualitative Study Using National Data,” November 12, 2014.
3 JPSM, “Dying Patients’ Need for Emotional Support and Personalized Care from Physicians,” March 01, 2003.
4 NCBI, “Nurses’ Stress Associated with Nursing Activities and Electronic Health Records: Data Triangulation from Continuous Stress Monitoring, Perceived Workload, and a Time Motion Study,” March 4, 2020.
5 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Hospice Employees’ Perceptions of Their Work Environment: A Focus Group Perspective,” August 24, 2020.
6 ResearchGate, “Predicting the Risk of Compassion Fatigue: A Study of Hospice Nurses,” November 2006.
7 Hospice News, “Fostering Hospice Staff Resilience During COVID-19,” January 8, 2021.