Respect: The key to patient safety and preventing medical errors

Consumer Reports survey indicates patients who felt disrespected were more likely to be victims of mistakes

They say respect is a two-way street, and if a new Consumer Reports survey is any indication, that street is paved with better, safer medical care.

The survey findings are detailed in a report called "How Not to Get Sick(er) in the Hospital." The publication polled 1,200 people who were hospitalized in the last six months and found that those who rarely felt respected by healthcare workers were two and a half times more likely to fall victim to a medical error than those who reported they were treated well.

Consumer Reports defined respectful behavior on the part of medical staff as communicating effectively, showing compassion, honoring patients' wishes and acknowledging mistakes, and used "medical errors" as a catch-all term to include hospital-acquired infections, medication mistakes, misdiagnoses and other preventable adverse events. Of the patients polled, 29 percent reported experiencing a medical error, echoing the danger highlighted by a previous FierceHealthcare report that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.

"I wasn't, unfortunately, surprised" by the report's findings, Dominick Frosch, Ph.D., a fellow in the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Patient Care Program, which provided a grant for the Consumer Reports survey, said in an exclusive interview with FierceHealthcare.

"At the same time, what this survey does is give us a more comprehensive picture of where we stand at the national level…So we could really get a better sense of how much work needs to be done."

An alarming one in four of those surveyed said staff didn't consistently treat them "like a person." Further, about one third felt their wishes weren't always honored and staff didn't always listen to them without interrupting; and 21 percent felt outright discriminated against, according to the report.