In the past, the words “fear” and “patients” rarely occurred in the same sentence…until recently.
How do I know? Because, for years, I’ve studied what patients fear about hospitals and healthcare; it’s what I speak about. In fact, I even get Google Alerts to see who else is discussing similar subjects.
Last year, the conversation changed considerably. With the onslaught of the Ebola virus (and the media attention it garnered), we started to hear more and more about fear. There was fear for the health of care providers, fear for the healthy population, and fear of the decisions being made to handle the epidemic, which began to threaten to the US.
I think it’s fair to say that we quickly became a nation gripped with fear. What we feared was our own mortality, and it shook us to the core. It was all about us: our safety, our security, our health, our lives.
But, when the Ebola threat subsided in the US, so did our level of fear.
What remains in this country—in our healthcare system, more specifically—are millions of patients who fear the same things we did when the Ebola crisis was at its peak. And, sadly, we forget to ask them what they fear or how we can help them deal with their fears. Remember: It’s now about them, not us. (We’re safe.)
Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about recognizing and addressing patient fears. Because, having some idea of how scary it can be to fear for our own health, we get it now.