Does everyone need a patient advocate?

Posted by Kristin Baird on February 14th, 2013 • No Comments »

A patient recently made the comment, “Everything is different when I have a family member with me.” I asked her to clarify what she meant. She said, “I wish it wasn’t this way, but I know that if I have someone with me, the staff is much more attentive. They seem to be more on the ball and listen to me more. The doctors are the same. I think it’s because they feel like someone else is watching.” She went on to give several examples of how different her care is when she is alone versus when she is accompanied by family. Each example, whether real or perceived (read: perception is reality), clearly indicated that there was a difference for her. I asked her what the takeaway message is, and she offered, “Don’t go to a hospital alone.”

I have to say this made me feel sad to think her assessment may be true. I’d like to believe that the care patients receive is consistent whether they are alone or are accompanied by visitors or even an advocate. Yet, as I thought about it, I realized that there may be some validity to her observation. As part of our mystery shopping services, we often send a Care Partner Observer to accompany patients through their inpatient stays and outpatient procedures. Not only do they document their own direct observations, but they also ask the patients to share their thoughts and feelings about staff encounters. Our mystery shopping companions have heard several comments similar to the one made above. Is it true? Do doctors, nurses, and other staff members really behave differently in the presence of family? This might be an interesting discussion to have with your staff and may be a lesson we can learn (and teach)…

“Perfect valor is to behave, without witnesses, as one would act were all the world watching.” -François de la Rochefoucau

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Baird Consulting

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