Give patients what they want: Trust, compassion

With patient satisfaction scores tied to Medicare reimbursements, hospitals are trying to find that elusive answer to what patients want.

But it seems hospitals are ending up with more questions than answers, as the disconnect between what patients really want in their care and what they're actually getting from hospitals widens, according to a Hospital Impact blog post from Andrea J. Simon, Ph.D., a consultant and former marketing and branding VP at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich.

One thing still on patients' wish list? Trust.

"They cannot tell if a doctor is prescribing something they need or that the doctor needs, for either an income stream, an insurance process or to protect himself from malpractice," Simon wrote.

Trust between providers and patients is essential to delivering high-quality care. In fact, research shows patients who trust their provider have better outcomes and adherence to treatment plans, Nicholas J. Russo of The Commonwealth Medical College wrote in a recent column for the Scranton Times-Tribune.

And despite wanting a trusting connection with providers, patients lament a lack of engagement: "Doctors don't look them in the eye, don't spend time trying to understand what is bothering them," patients told Simon.

There's that disconnect again. I keep hearing about strides made in patient engagement and shared decision making. Yet it seems patients are still waiting to experience those gains.

To deliver the level of engagement patients expect, providers need to treat patients as human beings, not medical conditions. Creating a hospital culture of personal connections and compassionate care will not only lead to happier patients but also better outcomes.

And compassion isn't just for physicians and staff; caring leadership is better leadership, says the new chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Fortunately, in their search to figure out what patients want, hospital leaders are taking note of calls for trust and compassion.

They're not only taking note; hospitals are making factors like engagement, compassion and empathy top priorities at their organizations. For example, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General are training residents and staff to understand and respond to others' feelings and improving physicians' interactions with patients.

With these efforts, hospitals can start to bridge the gap between patient wants and care delivered, resulting in better outcomes and satisfaction scores--a win for patients and hospitals' wallets. - Alicia (@FierceHealth)

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