In Healthcare: Respect= Safety

Written by Deborah Caputo Rosen, RN, PhD

Finally!  Respect= Patient Safety. From that wise purveyor of direct- to- consumer information and education, Consumer Reports, comes a report written in easily understandable language that underscores the message of the Wilson-Stronks advocacy program: Improving Healthcare by Putting Patients in Patient Safety (How Not to Get Sick(er) in the Hospital).

Consumer Reports conducted a survey, of 1,200 recently hospitalized patients, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.  It demonstrated a clear link between participants’ perceptions of respectful treatment and their safety during the hospitalization. The survey defined measures of respect, including:  “the ways staff members and physicians communicated and, whether they acted with compassion, honored patients’ wishes and acknowledged mistakes”.

Whether it is called patient satisfaction, patient engagement, or patient and family-centered care, people who are actively involved in their own healthcare, experience better outcomes and have lower health costs than those who are not (Dentzer 2013). In the Consumer Reports survey, one-third of respondents felt doctors and nurses did not always listen to them without interrupting, 25% said staff did not always treat them as adults able to be involved in their own care decisions, and 34% felt their expressed wishes were not honored. Twenty-one per cent felt they experienced actual discrimination in their care.  Those who rated their experience of respect poorly were two and a half times more likely to experience a medical adverse event than those who described usually being treated respectfully.  And dismissive or poor treatment made survey respondents feel uncomfortable asking questions about their care and the steps being taken to keep them safe. Those who did not “Speak Up” were 50% more likely to have experienced at least one medical error during their hospital stay.

The Consumer Reports article also includes a table called Top and Bottom Scoring Hospitals for Safety and Respect. The data are drawn from the organization’s hospital ratings tools and are based on January 2014 data from CMS . Reported safety scores are based on mortality rates, infection rates and hospital readmissions.  Patient experience (respect) scores include doctor and nurse communication, communication about discharge and overall impression of the hospital.

Many consumers will benefit from the wide availability of this Consumer Reports coverage.  Their recommendations parallel what Wilson-Stronks teaches patients/families and providers in our advocacy curriculum: “Know-Ask-Speak”!

  • Choose the right hospital
  • Help providers see you as a person
  • Invite your doctor to have a seat
  • Have “Your People” with you
  • Know when errors tend to occur
  • Find a “Troubleshooter”
  • Be assertive and prepared but courteous
  • Keep the concept of partnership in mind
  • Write things down
  • If you don’t understand, ask again

Once healthcare consumers recall that they are the CEOs of their own healthcare teams; are purchasing services from healthcare professionals, and have choices, rights and clear expectations about the outcome of care, more than half of the work is done! Then, some expert coaching of necessary communication skills, negotiation skills and facts about their diagnosis and treatment options can restore a balance of power and assure a safer, more respectful healthcare experience.

Contact us to learn more about how we are “Putting Patients in Patient Safety”.

Work Cited:

Dentzer, S. Health Affairs. February 2013, 32:202. Accessed January 10, 2015
“How Not to Get Sick(er) in the Hospital”. Consumer Reports. February 2015, p. 32-37.)

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