If you have been paying attention at all to the conventional healthcare industry, it’s not difficult to see that the majority of hospitals are dropping the ball on providing quality healthcare.
The system is at its worst in the U.S., which has the most expensive health care in the world and also ranks dead last in quality of care among industrialized countries.
If that is not proof enough that the current system is flawed, consider recent research that revealed 210,000 lives are lost each year by preventable hospital errors. If you choose to include diagnostic errors, failure to follow proper guidelines, and omission errors, the number climbs to 440,000 preventable deaths each year! Turns out that these errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., immediately after heart disease and cancer.
In light of these scary statistics and their poor track record for healthcare, hospitals are long overdue for an independent performance audit, by someone not invested in the system and can look at it for what it is.
Keep in mind this is not a witch hunt, nor a roast. This is about identifying real issues in the system and providing solutions which can be implemented over a period of time to improve the patient experience.
So, with that, here are five ways hospitals have dropped the ball on healthcare, and how they can immediately pick up the slack.
Improve the quality of the patient’s food
One of the very first items on the agenda to improve patient experiences (and conceivably, one of the easiest to implement) is to improve the food that is served not only in patient rooms, but in the entire building itself.
At the present moment, a patient could expect conventional, highly processed, and “dead” food to appear on their plate while they are undergoing care. Boost shakes (possibly one of the most horrific options), jello, pudding, cheese, milk, sugary juices, conventional pieces of meat, highly processed sandwiches, and poorly made soups are quite common. Not only are these foods not nourishing, they are mostly toxic and immune taxing. They are going to do next to nothing with respect to a proper recovery.
If a hospital truly wants to improve the patient experience and outcomes, they need to move towards more organic, local, fresh, and whole foods with a focus on fruits, vegetables, and spices that introduce beneficial enzymes and probiotics, reduce inflammation, are easy on digestion, and are supportive of the liver.
Meals and foods to consider include freshly made juice, smoothies, salads, blended soups, fermented foods and beverages (sauerkraut and kefir), stir fry’s, raw or lightly steamed vegetables, and small, clean pieces of animal protein. Clean water is also an absolute must, and herbal teas should also be considered.
This area is arguably the most important measure hospitals could improve that would make a tremendous difference on the patient experience as well as improve their immediate recovery.
Improve the quality of the patient’s environment
Another poorly functioning area of nearly every hospital is the environment patients are subjected to on a daily basis while trying to recover physically and emotionally.
Being placed in a cold, white room and being bombarded by the harmful effects of EMF’s and fluorescent lighting is just the beginning of what is wrong with many hospital rooms. Add in little to no access to sunlight, too much noise from neighbouring patients, and contaminated air, and you have a spot that feels anything but warm, supportive, and healing.
Add to this the constant poking, prodding, and questioning and a patient can become even more mentally and physically fatigued. Of course, some of this activity may be necessary but this is also why the immediate environment needs to be remediated deeply, so the doctor and nurses visits don’t aggravate an already uptight patient.
If a hospital wants to improve a patient’s experience and recovery, they must introduce as many factors as possible to “ground” the patient and make their environment as familiar (homey) and natural as possible.
A simple start would be to introduce air filtering plants, sunlight (or at least a good view of outside), fresh air, soothing music, lovable pets, positive books, more natural lighting, colourful rooms, and grounding (outside when possible, but using available technology when required) to the patient’s room and communal areas. Having sound proof walls and no more than one patient to a room could also increase the sanctity of their visit, rather than having to listen to other generally depressing conversations between patients, the doctor, and their families (especially when they are trying to sleep).
This could turn a cold, annoying, and disruptive situation into a more warm and comforting sanctuary.
Offer natural remedies FIRST, drugs and surgery second
A large amount of hospital visits are short stints, and ones that could be remedied at home first, or worst case, in the hospital using natural remedies. However, hospitals have become drug dispensing juggernauts where prescriptions are always the first choice, and often, the wrong choice for the situation. A more mindful and natural approach should be considered first in many cases, before the pen, paper, and prescription come out.
Currently, many hospital visits are a result of some type of infection, often bacterial. This has resulted in the over prescribing of pharmaceutical antibiotics that have not only created damaged digestive systems and livers, but also more dangerous superbugs. Furthermore, if a certain body part seems to be compromised, a popular suggestion is often surgery to remove it rather than attempting to naturally address the source of the issue.
If hospitals want to improve the patient experience and long term outcomes and save themselves the revolving door line up and being severely overworked, they should bring back natural remedies in initial visits to avoid the toxic effect of drugs (both immediate and long term). They can also take this opportunity to show patients how they can remedy these situations at home so those people with real emergencies can be attended to sooner. This could also lessen the work load of attending doctors and nurses.
In addition to that, those that have largely preventable or reversible disease should be given natural options first so they can actually work at remedying the source of the problem, rather than actively managing it for the rest of their lives through toxic medications.
Of course, some situations are dire and require a prescription or surgery in order to keep the patient alive and in less pain. However, following that intense period, patients should be given as many natural remedy options as possible to improve their long term recovery and quality of life.
We have a pharmacy that has worked for centuries and is very synergistic and largely harmless to our bodies (nature), so why not use that arsenal FIRST when it makes sense, rather than the man-made system which is proving to be completely inferior in non-emergency situations.
Educate the patient during and after their stay
People often don’t know why they are in the situation they are, and often will attribute it to genetics and poor luck. The fact that their daily food choices, mindset, and environment might play a huge part is often lost on them, which is often why they are in the hospital in the first place.
This is why educating the patient during and after their stay is incredibly important. This would not only improve their experience by providing them with hope to avoid the same situation in the future, but also an opportunity to take their health to a level they never imagined.
This is not to say that every patient will be receptive to a change in lifestyle and that they will be wiling to take action, but for those that are it could open a whole new world to them that doesn’t need to involve repeated hospital visits and acute care (at least for chronic disease) in the future. I figure that quite a few would take some action if they had the knowledge to do so, and their physical improvement would convert them to a healthier way of living.
Presently, this education would not be undertaken by doctors or nurses due to their woeful education on all the factors that improve healing and quality of life, including but not limited to proper nutrition, improved mindset, and a general understanding of how to improve the main systems in the body to avoid chronic disease. Rather, it should done by someone who understands the holistic approach to health, and can provide a support system for continued learning.
Integrate with natural practitioners and coaches
Right now, hospitals operate primarily in isolation from more natural methods. Referrals are often to other specialists within the conventional system, and there is rarely integration with the natural health industry. Only of late have doctors started suggesting some forms of physical therapy (such as chiropractic), and their integration with naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, and holistic health coaches is poor to say the least.
The reality is that doctors are in a system that is great at emergency care. Acute situations such as physical trauma from accidents, or severe, life-threatening infections are where they excel and what they should focus on in their care. Following that immediate response, hospital staff should use a referral process that sends the patient to a system that excels in long term, natural health and lifestyle management. This could include but not be limited to naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, health coaches, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors.
This type of partnership gets the patient the best quality of healthcare in their particular continuum of recovery. Most natural health practitioners would agree they don’t want to deal with certain acute situations, and most doctors would sheepishly admit that their knowledge of managing a healthy lifestyle through holistic measures in order to improve the quality of life long term for their patients is quite inept. Doctors need to realize where their expertise lies, and refer to appropriate professionals as required. This will also save them future visits and burdensome hours, along with the rest of the hospital staff.
These are just a few suggestions in making hospitals a better place for patient care and to improve on their current track record. Hospitals can be very useful, but an serious overhaul is needed. A few hospitals are starting to lead the way (serving organic food), and old institutions that don’t adapt will eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
Of course, there are some of us who want to avoid the hospital altogether and improve our situation at home. Fortunately, there are options to do so. Simply enroll in the THRIVE online health program, and you can become your own long term physician, and only use hospital services when absolutely required.
Sources for this article include: