Comfort Aids in Health Recovery, Consumer Choice

Comfort is in. Not that we haven’t always appreciated it but studies over recent years correlating comfort to better outcomes in everything from college exams to health recovery suggest there is more to this than meets the eye, though fashion has finally gotten the memo. A headline from Well and Good blogger Tamim Alnuweiri from 2019’s Fashion Week:

THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM NEW YORK FASHION WEEK IS THAT EVERYONE JUST WANTS TO BE COMFORTABLE AND COZY

So while the fashion industry is late to valuing comfort, those in the healthcare industry are not. Those decision makers have long appreciated the relationship between the relief of pain and health recovery. Twenty years ago, the Joint Commission recommended health providers routinely ask patients about the intensity of their pain and to do something about it, NPR reported in a Morning Edition story:

Controlling acute pain in the hospital setting can also decrease a patient’s risk of developing chronic pain later on. When people begin to feel pain, Webster (Dr. Lynn Webster, previously with Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic, Salt Lake City) says the body begins to set up an inflammatory process in the central nervous system that’s ‘hard to quiet down.’ For some people, that inflammation begins to feed on itself and, once discharged from the hospital, patients may go on to experience pain for months, even years afterward.

Universal Pain Assessment Tool

More recently, healthcare professionals are increasingly attending to mental- and emotional-related factors in a patient’s health recovery. An April 2019 Harvard Health Publishing paper, The Mental Side of Recovery, reported:

The physical repercussions of a major health issue, like surgery, an injury, or a heart attack, are tough enough without having to also confront the stress, anxiety, and depression that often accompanies it. Yet managing your mental health is just as important as your physical health when it comes to making a full recovery.

There is no question that your state of mind can dictate how quickly you can return from a physical setback,” says Dr. Jeff Huffman, director of the cardiac psychiatry research program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Further, in the business of health recovery, everything from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reimbursement rules to the new era of consumer choice is evolving the approach to patient care, including considerations of how the patient felt about their experience of the healthcare facility. In this aspect, women are increasingly proactive in “shopping” not only for the best healthcare experience for themselves but for their whole family.

Every part of a patient’s experience with a healthcare facility informs his or her perception of that provider. The less well-recognized influencers of patient satisfaction, such as patient gowns, are often overlooked. However, our own study shows these lesser-known factors can have a major impact.

ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists first made available gowns and robes in its Comfort Care® line in late 2016 and the number of patients, particularly women, who have tracked down ImageFIRST’s website and contributed testimonials to the difference the gowns or robes made in their diagnostic or recovery experience, is astounding. A sampling:

I just went through a tough procedure and had your Comfort Care gown. It was very comfortable, warm, and soft to the touch. I loved it. I have been going to Delray Medical Center Women’s Imaging for years. The facility and robe are perfect! – Evelyn G., Delray Beach, FL

I received your Comfort Care gown during a recent doctor’s visit, and it was extremely soft and luxurious and provided exceptional body coverage for me, even though I am a plus-size woman.
While waiting, I felt comfortable knowing that my body was adequately covered; the soft fabric of the robe didn’t inspire any neuropathy pain the way some lesser fabrics do on my skin. I can honestly say that I was emotionally serene due to the great soft touch of the plush robe against my sensitive skin. Patients to a healthcare facility undergoing diagnostic testing are often anxious during the testing procedure. Therefore, any healthcare professional or facility that goes ‘the extra mile’ to take care of its patients and provide comfort is appreciated. I was extremely impressed with the care, thought and compassion that Novant Health put into its decision to provide its patients with the very best of a Comfort Care garment to provide an outstanding level of patient support. – Charleen M., Lancaster SC

I was diagnosed with cancer. These visits are tough for me. But this gown makes me feel better; I am comfortable in the office when wearing it. This facility was truly supportive during my treatment visits and committed to my comfort. – Rosie B., Miami FL

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, a component of healthcare reform, determines a patient’s perception of a healthcare provider, taking in nine areas of the patient experience. The survey score directly correlates to the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to the facility:

    1. Communication with doctors and nurses
    2. Responsiveness of hospital staff
    3. Pain management
    4. Communication about medicines
    5. Discharge information
    6. Transition of care
    7. Quietness and cleanliness of the hospital environment

ImageFIRST’s study measured the impact a quality patient gown has on the patient perception of a healthcare facility. In the survey, 576 of 1,067 patients were surveyed prior to switching to high-quality gowns or robes, 491 patients were surveyed following the change.

Results showed that patients’ favorable or very favorable impression of the health system nearly doubled for those wearing Comfort Care gowns or robes rather than standard.

Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey results

While not a component of the HCAHPS Survey’s nine topics, it is clear that attention to less well-recognized influences on patient satisfaction can have a major impact on the patient’s experience, even their wellbeing, as well as on their perception of a healthcare facility.

This is just one example of a big return on a small investment. It can make a dramatic impact on the patient’s impression of the facility. More importantly, it can enhance the patient experience in a way that also aids in health recovery. Comfort matters.

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