An often-overlooked but integral component of healthcare is preventive medicine. Within our busy lives, we’re all too likely to let developing medical conditions go undetected and unaddressed as we press on with our daily responsibilities. Often, when it comes to hypertension, diabetes, scoliosis, dementia, or certain cancers, we wait until it’s too late. In addition to poorer outcomes for patients, these cases also put additional strain on an American healthcare system that is already pushing its limits every day. In many ways, neither the care provider nor the patients can afford to get sick.
The financial and qualitative costs of late diagnoses for patients and healthcare systems underscore the importance of timely and effective medical screenings. In medical screening, the goal is not necessarily to treat but to intercept what needs treating. Screening processes identify markers and risk factors for conditions that are not readily apparent, which allows doctors to intervene before further advancement. Screenings do this through a variety of processes, from simple surveys to blood tests to batteries of psychological tests. Upon receiving results, the response can be as simple as prescribing lifestyle changes or take more complex forms of medical or surgical intervention.
Owing to the critical role that medical screenings play in the healthcare system, all parties involved depend on a streamlined, efficient, and effective screening process. Byzantine registration requirements, long wait times, and inscrutable forms can dissuade staff and patients alike from undergoing these very necessary tests. Chromalabel has a few colorful tips for simplifying patient screening for patients, visitors, and staff.
Keep Questionnaires Easy To Understand
What often dissuades patients from undergoing medical screenings—not to mention simple visits to the doctor—are the copious and cumbersome stacks of forms they need to fill out. Most medical screenings begin with a questionnaire for the patient to complete. These typically take the form of a long series of questions regarding possible symptoms and preexisting conditions.
Perhaps most vexing for many screening patients is when they must rate pain or discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10. Most of us do not think of our pain as falling on a scale of 1 to 10—no one has ever skinned a knee and exclaimed, “Oh, this is about a 6!” An inability to quantify pain turns many questionnaires into statistical noise. Before introducing a section on pain and assigning numerical values, put words to numbers to give patients an idea of how discomfort and functional impairment would make pain rank. Color-code the descriptive sections with a gradient of green or blue to red, further underscoring that 10 is the most excruciating pain imaginable and not number 10 on a top-ten list. While this may seem like it’s adding to rather than subtracting from the load of paperwork a patient must fill out, it leads to better paperwork as patients can report their symptoms more accurately.
While the medical field has more than its share of necessary jargon, screening forms need to stay within layman’s terms whenever possible. Intuitive phrasing helps return accurate responses. “High blood pressure” for “hypertension,” for instance, can be a useful clarification for many patients.
Address Poor Health Literacy
Even with questionnaires that seem easy to understand, not all patients have the requisite health literacy to navigate medical screenings without additional guidance from staff. Doctors and nurses, with their extensive and specialized educations, can sometimes be guilty of overestimating the health literacy of their patients. This is a forgivable and well-intentioned error but, nevertheless, one they must correct to carry out successful screenings. If leaving a patient alone to fill out forms is not returning the information you need, you can improve the screening process by making it more conversational. Oral communication can be instrumental in completing necessary forms. For instance, employing analogies to better explain body parts or conditions can clarify ambiguities in terminology. Consider patients for whom English is not their first language. You may find it beneficial to offer screening questionnaires with Spanish, French, Korean, or Polish translations, where applicable, so as not to lose valuable information to the language gap.
Compensating for a patient’s insufficient health literacy can include uninvolved visitors as well. Patients with dementia, for instance, may require assistance from a family member to explain details in a way the patient may better understand. While they may not be able to fill out the forms on the patient’s behalf, they can fill a valuable consulting role as an intermediary between doctor and patient. Because they themselves may still not have the advanced health literacy that attends a full medical education, remember to keep questionnaires understandable for people in such assistive roles as well.
Simplifying for Staff Members
The paperwork that encompasses medical screening can be just as overwhelming for staff members as it is for patients. In addition to the questionnaires that precede the tests themselves, the documents that note test results can become difficult to parse, with too much information to discern at a moment’s glance. Fortunately, color can speak volumes when words cannot. With this principle in mind, Chromalabel offers a full spectrum of colored dot stickers to help clarify extensive and confusing paperwork. Color-coding dots can help to indicate which patients represent priorities.
While the rest of the business world is firmly within the 21st century, the healthcare sector still relies on tangible archives for much of its information. With so many of us now firmly accustomed to navigating digital data, the comparatively archaic filing methods in many hospitals and practices can prove daunting. Amid the myriad documents in the archives, assigning a single color to anything relating to medical screenings can assist in organization and retrieval. This system creates a simpler process and can preclude the woeful possibility of losing or misplacing important documents for a patient. Simplifying patient screening for patients, visitors, and staff, from the developmental stage to the archival stage, will mean better outcomes for patients and care providers alike.