What do you fear? Nosocomephobia and neophobia in the time of COVID-19

Instinctively there are many common phobias that are ingrained in humans. Examples range from claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces to entomophobia, the fear of insects. It is common that when we share our fears, they often echo things that have been placed in popular culture across horror genres. Things that nightmares are made of.

2020 has opened up the conversation of what we fear to more commonplace things. The fear of social contact, the fear and anxiety brought on by the unknown, and as the CDC shares the “fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on” as caused by anxiety of a challenging time as shared in the guide: Pandemics can be stressful.  

In hospitals, healthcare workers do everything that they can do to make their patients feel comfortable. Yet fear can be a central theme in caregiving situations and finding ways to encourage peace of mind is a key piece in how we address this.

In a Politico article titled Fear and Loneliness in the age of coronavirus  the vulnerability of high risked immuno-compromised patients are addressed. With patients tending to isolate themselves or fearing that their caregivers will contract COVID-19 and bring it to their bedside, there is a lot at stake for caregivers to have the best practices to support their patients’ health, both mental and physical. In the article they share this chilling quote, “The idea of death is horrendous, because it’s a solitary, lonely death” by Rome-based psychotherapist Filippo Benedetti.

Nosocomephobia, neophobia, HAIs and healthcare

A subset of patients may even have phobias, lesser known, but equally risky to a caretaking situation. Nosocomephobia is an excessive or irrational fear of hospitals. Psychtimes shares that the most common symptoms include anxiety, avoidance of hospitals, muscle tension, shakiness, sweating, and panic attacks.

Imagine the complexity of a healthcare situation that requires understanding this behavioral trait. In the Harvard Business Review podcast Mastering the Art of Persuasion Jonah Berg explains that people may be afraid of hospitals because they risk harm or adverse effects.

Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) are one of the most frequent adverse events in hospitals. “Studies show that on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the time they should. This contributes to the spread of healthcare-associated infections that affect 1 in 31 hospital patients on any given day.” Imagine the peace of mind that a patient, fearful of HAIs, perhaps ridden with nosocomephobia could feel, upon watching their doctors and nurses sanitize their hands upon entry and seeing a technological solution provide positive reinforcement to them that it has been done correctly. The Sani Nudge hand hygiene solution is a technical system that accomplishes this.  

Another trait of interest, Neophobia, is the fear of anything new. In a recent Hygiene and infection prevention network podcast featuring Else Smith, the previous CEO of the Danish Health Authority, and Dr. Marco Bo Hansen had a discussion about how hospitals and doctors can have a rigid, methodological approach in everything they do. It is good in many situations but when it comes to adapting new technologies it can be a barrier and might be a reason why we see that the healthcare sector is a slow adapter compared to other industries. 

Neophobia may be coming into play here as the behavioral scientist explained that one of the barriers to taking next steps may be because we are afraid of trying something new.

Overall, the Sani Nudge solution is one of many that can help reduce fear and ensure patient and staff safety during a tumultuous time. With Sani Nudge, creating and maintaining excellent hand hygiene conditions is automated and easy, allowing healthcare teams to deliver the best possible care and focus on the challenges at hand. 

About Sani Nudge

About Sani Nudge​ | ​Sani Nudge is a data driven MedTech company, dedicated to working towards the mission of contributing to human health, by connecting hospitals with actionable insights that improve patient safety and care. 

If you are curious to know more about infection prevention and how to avoid spread of pathogens, do not hesitate to contact the Sani Nudge team.

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