ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Improving the Patient X-Ray Experience

Posted by Plish on February 2, 2011

I had a different post planned for this week, but on Friday, in a freak accident, I snapped my kneecap and went on a whirlwind, 48 hour tour of the emergency and surgical facilities at a local hospital.  Because of  the nature of my injuries, I was required to get x-rays of my knee – a lot of x-rays.  I lost count.  There were at least 10, 14 maybe.  It actually seemed like more!

The X-ray process is very regimented. You get in, you get positioned, you have to hold the position (sometimes also holding your breath), the x-ray gets taken and then you relax until you get repositioned for the next one, and so on…

There are indicators outside the entry doors for those in the hallways to tell them when the x-ray is in use, but nothing in the room for the patient.  When I asked the tech about it he said, “There’s a little beep.  When you hear it, that’s when the x-ray is happening – only during that time.”  He took the next x-ray and I heard a faint beep in the control room.

 “Hear it?”

“Yup,” I said.  But, quite frankly it was next to impossible to hear.  The reason why it’s so important to hear is that, as  a patient, I was lying there with my leg bent in an awkward, and painful position.  I only wanted to hold it for as long as needed.  I needed to know when the x-ray was complete so I could relax.  Now, I know that many techs will actually announce, “You can relax now,” and that’s good.  But what about before the xray?  The patient is patiently holding and is never quite sure when the x-ray is going to come.  All of a sudden it happens and they say, “Relax.”

There needs to be a better way.

So, I started thinking  how other participatory processes are guided.  Drag racing, traffic lights, car washes, dancing games.  They use lights, words, and sounds to  inform people about what’s coming up next. No surprises and everything flows – it becomes a dance of sorts.

Guided by those thoughts, here is a proposed way of improving the x-ray experience for patients.  It’s a way of making the x-ray process participatory.  Using a handheld, wireless remote, the tech initiates an x-ray sequence using colored lights, vocal commands, music and sounds to help the patient better understand where she is in the process and thus give her better feelings of control,  making the  experience more positively perceived. 

Would love to hear your thoughts! (Oh, if you don’t like the choice of colors or music, blame it on the painkillers 😉 )

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4 Responses to “Improving the Patient X-Ray Experience”

  1. Doug said

    Been there, experienced that. Definitely an opportunity to improve the patient experience. Thanks for waving the flag on this one.

  2. Plish said

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Doug. Anything else you’d suggest?

  3. Please take a look at our Philips Ambient experience solutions where we have created new experiences for CT, MR and many other imaging modalities, using light, video and sound to create positive distractions to improve the overall experience

    http://www8.healthcare.philips.com/ae/index.html

  4. Plish said

    Sean, Great work!! Looking forward to future directions/improvements and propagation of your work through more healthcare settings. Any thoughts on using soothing smells in addition to the lighting side of things? I realize it’s more difficult to titrate odors because people can be sensitive, but just wondering. Thanks for sharing!!

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