Patients often left out of the 'patient experience'

Patients still don't know enough about the care they're receiving.

That's one major finding from a recent survey by the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. Less than half of hospitalized patients surveyed (48 percent) said they were always involved in decisions about their treatment.

Hospital patients also aren't getting the care they expect. The survey found a 20 percentage point gap between the compassionate care patients think they should receive vs. the care they actually received in a hospital.

Being kept out of the loop might be part of the problem. Nearly one-third of patients don't even know who handled their case in the hospital. 

Improving the patient experience is something that's often lost in the shuffle of a busy work day. Between inserting tubes, administering medications, checking vital signs and completing endless hours of documentation, it's easy for the "care" aspect of caregiving to become lost. How would patients rate caregivers at your healthcare organization? 

CMS Administrator Dr. Don Berwick told a story recently about just how far removed doctors and nurses were from one patient's perspective. Speaking at the National Committee for Quality Assurance's annual policy conference in D.C., last Friday, he recalled Kevin, a 15-year-old with short bowel syndrome who had been in and out of hospitals.

When Berwick asked Kevin what the doctors and nurses could do better, the boy wrote down three things:

  • Tell me what you're going to do before you do it
  • Could you please talk to each other?
  • I've been in the hospital 60 times. I know a lot. Could you ask me what I think?

As Berwick noted, Kevin's comments reflect the need for better integration and continuity of care. I would add that each point calls for better communication, whether with the patient or among caregivers.

Patient experience is "the ultimate trump card," NCQA President Margaret O'Kane said at the conference. "Your health plan may look good on clinical quality measures, but if you are frustrated by long wait times and nonresponsive member services, you will not call it a high-quality plan."

Here's another way to look at it. A patient who sits in the waiting room for hours or who is treated abruptly by a doctor may dread getting care, is more likely to skip appointments and less likely to follow another doctor's advice.

That can't be good for the patient -- or for the healthcare bean counters of America if it ultimately drives up costs. - Sandra