Spiritual Care

‘Do you have someone who loves you?’ Simple questions AdventHealth asks to better understand patients

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Do you have someone who loves you?

Do you have a source of joy in your life?

Do you have a sense of peace today?

At AdventHealth, each doctor’s visit starts with those three simple questions. And how patients answer isn’t shrugged off as small talk. Their answers are often as revealing about their health as their blood pressure or heart rate.

“If a patient answers ‘no,’ doctors can often glean quite a bit,” said Dr. Ted Hamilton, senior adviser for physician wellbeing. “Maybe they’re depressed or worried about a recent diagnosis or grieving a loss. Maybe they’re stressed about their job or struggling with substance use. Or maybe they’re having thoughts about harming themselves. Things that otherwise don’t get noticed.”

For any patient who answers no, they're referred to AdventHealth’s Spiritual Care team. No matter what the patient’s faith is, the spiritual caregiver calls to check on them and see how AdventHealth can help.

Headshot of Ted Hamilton.
Ted Hamilton, senior adviser for physician wellbeing at AdventHealth, helped devise the Spiritual Wellness questions patients are asked at every doctor's visit.

Hamilton told News 6 in a recent interview how he helped establish AdventHealth’s Spiritual Wellness screening program in 2018, following a yearslong partnership and study with Dr. Harold G. Koenig from Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health. The study, called Faith in Practice, included 450 doctors of all faiths and backgrounds.

Research had long shown the link between spirituality and physical health but connecting the two at the doctor’s office wasn’t exactly commonplace. The study found that with a little training and education, doctors were open to incorporating spiritual care into appointments.

AdventHealth, an organization deeply rooted in faith and whole person care, was the perfect place to start.

Now, four years later, 2,000 physicians across AdventHealth have embraced Spiritual Wellness screenings as part of outpatient appointments and asked more than 9 million patients those three simple questions. It’s resulted in over 94,000 patient referrals to AdventHealth’s Spiritual Care team. The questions are also being rolled out to the inpatient setting, where the hospital’s chaplains can follow up with patients.

Dr. Arianna Becker, a primary care physician at AdventHealth’s Center for Health and Wellbeing in Winter Park, said the practice has made her a better doctor.

“My understanding of my patients, it just doesn’t compare. Some break down in tears when we ask them the questions,” Becker said. “Think about it — we help people medically navigate everything from a cold to cancer, but it’s incredible how much good can come from simply asking patients how they’re doing.”

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