U.S. patients report inferior care

Not only are sick Americans facing serious financial problems from high healthcare costs (43 percent), but many are experiencing problems with healthcare quality, according to a new poll released yesterday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health.

For example, 13 percent of Americans who had a serious illness, medical condition, injury or disability requiring a lot of medical care or who had been hospitalized overnight in the past year said they were given the wrong diagnosis, treatment or test. Moreover, 26 percent said their condition was not well-managed, according to the poll summary.

The findings suggest that caregivers may not be adequately helping patients cope with serious healthcare conditions. In fact, a quarter (25 percent) of sick patents said a doctor, nurse or other health professional failed to provide all the necessary information about their treatment or prescriptions, while 30 percent felt a doctor, nurse or other health professional spent too little time with them.

"Listening to the experiences of sick people provides a good barometer of what's happening in healthcare in America," lead researcher Robert J. Blendon said yesterday in the research announcement. "What is most striking is the significant number of people whose care has not been well-managed, and who have been turned away from care."

Hospitalized Americans also complained about quality of care issues. Eleven percent said they received the wrong diagnosis, treatment or test, while 8 percent reported getting an infection during their stay. In addition, 30 percent of hospitalized Americans noticed poor communication among doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals involved in their care.

Based on the responses, healthcare organizations should take steps to give patients more information about their conditions and medication management, as a Harvard University study last summer found that such efforts helped reduce rehospitalizations.

For more:
- read RWJF research announcement
- here's the poll summary (.pdf)