Does the Medical Community Finally Respect Pediatric Touch Therapy? 

March 14, 2022

Over the past 20 years, the healthcare industry has made significant progress and changes in its care of patients. There have been advances in many areas, namely technology, telehealth, and advanced diagnostic services, that are much quicker to identify concerns. However, as electronics improve specific facets of efficiency, have those advances caused us to be too far removed from the original motto of healthcare and face a new ethical question – “where is the personal hands-on care that patients need to be feel comforted?”

In my observations, I have always noted the significant advances but at the same time recognized the need and opportunity of bringing back some of the patient care that families need to heal.

Healthcare teams require connection, communication, and understanding of their patients that can only come through personalized one-to-one care.

Many healthcare staff find themselves on the computer more than spending time with patients. In a 2016 study, researchers found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient.

Not only do patients report increased satisfaction when they have direct care. But it is also one of the highest ratings reported on their patient satisfaction surveys. After receiving a 15-minute hand massage, patients experienced reduced anxiety levels and increased satisfaction for a group of preoperative patients.

Benefits of the Use of Touch Therapy

Various massage techniques are non-invasive, safe, and effective when performed by skilled and educated healthcare providers, promoting many health benefits. 

When it comes to the use of massage therapy with hospitalized patients, techniques should be gentle and correctly adapted to consider all known precautions, contraindications, and exceptional healthcare considerations. 

In the hospital, healthcare providers work with patients with varying degrees of illness, symptomatology, and diagnosis, including those near the end of life. These patients require special accommodations to ensure massage is always beneficial and does not cause any harm or otherwise exacerbate their condition. 

Specific Patient’s Needs 

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has decided to take a very active role in addressing its concerns for the care of pediatric patients with cancer.

According to St. Jude’s recent study, children with cancer can experience intense psychological and physical suffering during treatment. Despite their best efforts, symptoms associated with both cancer and its treatment result in physical, psychological, and emotional discomfort that can be difficult to manage with even the best traditional Western medicine.

Currently, many healthcare systems cannot holistically provide the physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional care that affected families require. Therefore, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital pediatric hematology-oncology, palliative care, and integrative medicine (IM) providers advocate for the early incorporation of integrative, low-risk, and evidence-informed modalities into traditional care.

At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital the goals of their massage programming are to 1) provide massage services for patients with musculoskeletal pain, insomnia, stress/anxiety, and/or the desire for massage, and 2) document the feasibility of using bedside clinicians as parent massage educators. At St. Jude, interested bedside Healthcare Providers (HCPs) were trained in pediatric massage techniques for the purpose of teaching caregivers simple techniques during routine clinical care. To date, approximately 50 providers across 12 disciplines have completed the Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist Training program (CPMT®-1) through the Liddle Kidz® Foundation.

The Patient is Essentially the Customer

Don’t forget, that healthcare is a business. Whether our belief is that we must provide care indeed from a place of compassion or not, we must always think about the customer first – the patient.

The practice of family-centered care is of the utmost importance.

With so many choices in healthcare and the increased access to technologies, families can look for the hospitals and healthcare teams that will give them the most informed, forward-thinking, and well-rounded care. 

Measures of patient satisfaction and other patient-oriented report cards have become extremely important in healthcare. We are using these tools to evaluate our services, and when your institution doesn’t meet the mark, you are destined to lose.

An Opportunity for Innovation. 

As more hospitals and healthcare settings embrace pediatric massage and integrative therapies, they must seize the moment before missing this fantastic opportunity.