‘Do you have a sense of peace?’ AdventHealth officials ask patients questions to check mental health

‘Do you have someone in your life who loves and cares for you?’ is just one of the questions doctors ask

WINTER PARK, Fla. – With the end of the year quickly approaching, many of us are squeezing in those last-minute doctor’s appointments. But you may have noticed some interesting questions your physician is asking.

Members of the News 6 team noticed they were being asked questions related to mental and emotional well-being at their recent appointments with AdventHealth physicians.

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AdventHealth has been asking patients questions pertaining to love, joy and peace for the last four and a half years.

The questions include, “Do you have someone in your life who loves and cares for you?” “Do you have a source of joy in your life?” and “Do you have a sense of peace?”

“I feel that these questions really make me a better doctor,” AdventHealth Primary Care Physician Arianna Becker said.

Becker said those three questions help health officials get a better look into what is going on in their patients’ lives.

“They may have diabetes or high blood pressure which we need to take care of, but they may also have depression or anxiety,” Becker said. “These things might not get picked up on unless we ask these questions and find out they’re lonely (or) they don’t feel like they have somebody who loves and cares for them.”

The creation of the questions was no accident. AdventHealth’s senior advisor for physician well-being, Ted Hamilton, said the questionnaire was started about 9 years when Dr. Harold Koenig, a triple-boarded physician from Duke University, called the hospital system and asked it to take part in a research project.

“He said, ‘I’m wondering if AdventHealth would be interested in working with me on a research project to see if we can change physician attitudes toward incorporating spirituality into their medicine?’” Hamilton said.

The questions in the study are different than the ones used today.

They used to include, “Do you have a faith or religious support system when you need it?” “Do you have a spiritual need to address today?” and “Do you have religious beliefs that may affect your medical care one way or another?”

Hamilton said they still ask the third question, but once officials saw the success of the program, they realized they had happened upon something much bigger.

“The underlying idea to that was that we could have patients thinking about issues without having to say, ‘Do you have a spiritual need you could identify today?’” Hamilton said. “We would say, ‘Do you have someone who loves and cares for you?’”

Hamilton said these are important questions that help identify deeper clinical needs.

“A patient who does not have someone who loves and cares for them is less likely to get their prescriptions filled, less likely to make their doctor appointments, more likely to show up in the ED again and more likely to have a longer length of stay,” Hamilton said.

Over the last four and a half years, AdventHealth has been able to screen over 9 million patients with those questions. So far, they’ve been able to refer 100,000 patients to their E-Spiritual Care Center. The care center has a team that consists of eight full-time counselors.

If you or someone you know is struggling, head to AdventHealth’s website to learn more about its mental health resources.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.