Friday, September 08, 2006

Surveys and safety are intertwined

If you consider all the different elements hospitals need to keep in mind, it can be overwhelming.

Here’s a helpful, and important, piece of advice: Don’t think of these as “different elements.”

“These are all part of the same thing: Patient-centered care,” said Peter Shea, MD, Medical Director of Backus Hospital. “One good definition of providing patient-centered care is ‘making sure our patients have the best possible hospital experience.’”

What are the components of such an experience?

  • An environment that is safe, clean and quiet enough to promote healing.
  • Caregivers who listen to concerns and explain procedures, wait times and discharge instructions effectively.
  • Where patients and their families are treated with courtesy and respect by everyone who interacts with them –- not just nursing staff, by anyone associated with Backus.

These are perfectly reasonable expectations. They are, in fact, what we would expect for ourselves or our loved ones. They display what it means to provide patient-centered care.

Looked at this way, the new HCAHPS survey of inpatient experiences is not “one more thing.” It is, instead, a way to get feedback on the one most important thing: Providing patient-centered care.

Let’s look at just a two of the HCAHPS questions to see how patient safety, satisfaction and standards of care are all part of the same thing:

During this hospital stay, after you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it?

__ Never __ Sometimes __ Usually __ Always __ I never pressed the call button

During this hospital stay, did you get information in writing about what symptoms or health problems to look out for after you left the hospital?

__ Never __ Sometimes __ Usually __ Always

“These are safety issues expressed from the consumer standpoint,” Dr. Shea said. Call buttons exist to alert caregivers to patients’ needs -— for assistance in using the bathroom, for example. Some patients who attempt that task on their own may risk falling, and reducing patient falls is a National Patient Safety goal.

Likewise, providing medication safety instructions and information on what patients should look out for once they leave the Hospital is a proactive way to prevent medication errors in the home, or avoid a recurrence of conditions that might require more treatment.

Patient safety initiatives and the new HCAHPS survey aren’t really two distinct areas. They are both part of providing patient-centered care.


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