Hospitals increasing attention to patient comfort

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. --  No one wants to be in the hospital.  There's the discomfort of your illness, not to mention the needle sticks and the wires attached to you.   But hospitals are doing more to try to make the stay more comfortable.

LaQuan Williams has purposely been taken off his seizure medicines so that he'll have seizures in front of cameras at the University of Kansas Hospital.

"And it's oh, yeah.  Hooked up with all this stuff on my head.  All that.  It's ridiculous," Williams said, referring to electrodes on his head and chest.

But they're necessary so doctors can figure out how to better treat his epilepsy.  On top of it all, Williams can't have a blanket since doctors reviewing the video need to see all body movements during seizures.

"It makes you feel bad not to give someone a blanket.  You're a nurse.  You innately want to care for people," said Stacy Smith, a nurse manager for the neurology unit.

So the nursing staff is working on increasing comfort for epilepsy patients in other ways.  They're talking more to patients before their stays about what they can bring for comfort.   Those items include sweatpants and fuzzy socks.  Nurses got a fan for Williams' room since he sleeps with one at home.

While hospitals are building fancy facilities and putting more art on the walls, research shows that doesn't matter as much to patients as comfort.  It's increasingly recognized as equal to disease care.

"We benefit from increased volumes, increased loyalty, more referrals, all of those things that truly do impact the bottom line at the end of the day.  But I will tell you when we started, that isn't why we did it," said Terry Rusconi, Vice President, Performance Improvement at K.U. Hospital.

Rusconi says it's the right thing for patients.  It's also the financially beneficial one for hospitals since patient satisfaction surveys now determine in part how much money the government pays for care.

"I think they're doing definitely a good job, yeah," said Williams.

He thinks all that can be done to make him more comfortable is being done.

How your doctors, nurses and other caregivers interact with you also matters a lot in increasing comfort and satisfaction.  For instance, K.U. Hospital found that patients perceive their doctor is spending more time with them if the doctor sits by the bed rather than stands.