Healthcare News & Insights

Not respecting patients has consequences

Respecting hospital patients can go a long way toward improving their outcomes. A good number of patients are feeling alienated by clinical staff during hospital stays – and this can cause medical errors to increase for your facility.

465702013A new survey from Consumer Reports finds that patients who don’t feel like their views are fully respected by their hospital care team have a higher chance of experiencing a medical error during their stay.

The publication surveyed 1,200 people who had recent hospital stays. Patients who said they rarely received respectful treatment from clinical staff were two and a half times more likely to have experienced a medical error as patients who felt respected by clinical staff.

Errors included hospital-acquired infections, misdiagnosis, prescription mistakes and adverse drug reactions.

What is respect?

According to Consumer Reports, respectful treatment is defined as:

  • doctors minimizing the use of medical jargon, or at least explaining it to patients
  • staff members introducing themselves before doing anything to a patient
  • listening to patients and fully addressing their questions or concerns, and
  • acknowledging any mistakes and taking immediate steps to correct them.

Many patients felt like hospital staff gave little regard to their opinions, feelings or thoughts. About a quarter of patients said staff didn’t treat them like adults who played an active role in their own care – or even like people at all.

Some of the issues patients reported as contributing to these feelings were:

  • Being interrupted. A third of those surveyed said clinical staff didn’t always listen without interrupting or interjecting their own thoughts.
  • Ignoring patient preferences. Thirty-four percent of participants felt their wishes about treatment weren’t honored by their medical team.
  • Lack of fairness. Over 20% of patients survey believed they weren’t always treated fairly and without discrimination.

If patients experience any of these problems while being hospitalized, they’re much less likely to speak up to staff at all. Some patients worry they’ll be seen as “a bother or a pest” if they do so – a feeling expressed by one-fifth of participants in the survey. Others think they’ll be perceived as “difficult.” Thirteen percent of respondents said this was a concern.

But not speaking up can have consequences. Patients who felt the most uncomfortable bringing up concerns with medical staff were 50% more likely to experience a medical error during their hospital stay.

What facilities can do

With hospital reimbursement becoming so closely tied to patient safety, care quality and readmissions rates, facilities should be doing whatever they can to keep error rates low – and that includes giving more respect to the views of patients and their families.

Two things hospitals can do right now to prevent problems:

  1. Remind staff to treat patients as people. Sometimes, when getting caught up in creating a course of treatment for a person’s disease, clinicians can forget that they’re treating a patient, not an illness. Tell staff to keep that in mind so patients won’t feel like they’ve been reduced to a set of symptoms. Include patients and their families in conversations about their care, and be sure to address their concerns.
  2. Shore up trouble spots where errors occur. Miscommunication during handoff conversations when shifts change is one of the biggest issues causing medical errors. Errors can also occur when a ward or department is short-staffed for a shift. Patients surveyed who thought there weren’t enough nurses available during their stay were twice as likely to have experienced a medical error. Be mindful of these issues when you’re evaluating your hospital’s care delivery process.

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