How Physicians Can Help Patients Manage Stress

January 10, 2014

Stress affects your patients' health, and your practice's outcomes. Here's how to help them.

Chances are your patients - like you - are suffering from a bit of stress. Given the state of the economy, rising healthcare costs, a fast-paced U.S. lifestyle that only seems to be getting faster, this should come as no surprise.

But the consequences of stress could be affecting their overall health - and you practice's patient outcomes. Are you doing enough to address this issue?

A recent study from Televox and Kelton Research of 1,130 Americans ages 18 and older and 463 healthcare providers suggests physicians could be doing more. According to the study:  

91 percent of healthcare providers said their patients could do a better job of managing their stress

65 percent of doctors said that stress is negatively impacting their patients' lives

71 percent of healthcare providers said that their patients have discussed stress management with them

The latter point is, perhaps, the most interesting. It suggests patients are discussing stress-related symptoms with their doctors and that doctors feel they could be doing more.

But in today's rushed, truncated-visit environment, what more can physicians actually do? Fortunately, other data points offer some ideas.

"It goes back to keeping the patients engaged in their health," Alison Hart, director of marketing communications at Televox, told Physicians Practice.

According to the study:

88 percent of providers recommend exercise as a tool to combat stress

56 percent of providers said that patients getting more sleep will decrease stress levels

47 percent of providers recommend changing one's schedule or making fewer commitments

29 percent of providers recommend yoga or breathing exercises

And perhaps one of the still-under-tapped tools for stress management is technology: To make sure physicians' suggestions aren't falling on deaf ears, looking into ways to reinforce in-practice recommendations is a worthy investment of time. According to the survey, 66 percent of providers said that e-mails, text messages, or phone calls with personalized tips from doctors between visits would help patients better manage their stress level. Additionally, 66 percent of patients would be interested in and/or happy to receive communications from their doctor with tips on how to manage stress.

"It could be an informational e-mail on the negative effects that too little sleep can have," said Hart. "It could be delivered automated for them in the channel that patients want - e-mail, text, or phone."