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Patients Speak Up, But Are We Listening?

Posted by Kristin Baird on March 3rd, 2015 • 1 Comment »

There has been a push over the past several years encouraging patients to speak up. Spearheaded by Joint Commission to prevent errors, it has helped make vital improvements in patient safety. I’m encouraged to see patients taking an assertive position. Yet, when the patient concerns are related to service, I often find them met with excuses.

Not long ago, my sister Elizabeth was treated by a resident who was rude, abrupt, and frankly a bit callous in her bedside manner. Elizabeth confronted the individual and told her how she felt about the experience. I was really proud of her for voicing her frustrations. The resident seemed to shrug it off but the nurse let the chief resident and attending know about the encounter. Whether or not they spoke with the resident, I don’t know. What I do know is that they (the chief and the attending) both explained to Elizabeth that the resident had only been in the program for 6 months. Really? What is a patient to do with that explanation? Dismiss the incident and tell herself it’s worth it because she chose an academic medical center? Consumers aren’t going to do that. They will vote with their feet.

I won’t attempt to address the whole issue of patient experience training in medical schools in this blog, but rather focus on how to receive, respond, and use patient feedback. If we could rewind the tape, I’d like to see the chief and attending do the following:

  1. Thank the patient for the feedback and ask what she expected and didn’t get.
  2. Use the information to coach the resident so that she would understand the patient perspective, expectations, and the gaps that exist.
  3. Practice with the resident in a sim lab to work on specific behaviors of engagement, empathy, communication, and gestures of respect.
  4. Have the resident return to the patient, apologize, and thank the patient for her feedback which will help her grow as a physician.

It’s been said that a complaint is a gift. Let’s make sure that we are gracious recipients. It’ll be the gift that keeps on giving.

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Baird Consulting

One Response to “Patients Speak Up, But Are We Listening?”

  1. I hope Elizabeth is feeling better. She was courageous to speak up.

    Too many health care organizations are unable to reach the HCAHPS scores they want because they haven’t addressed the needs of staff members like the resident your sister encountered. The four-step process you’ve outlined would create a learning experience sure to create behavior change.

    Thank you for this most helpful post!


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