Care at the Bedside: Patient Safety and the Personal Touch

The Human Element of Patient Safety

Healthcare providers are busy people with important work to do. Unfortunately, efficiency can sometimes come across as brusque, blunt, or downright rude behavior – at least when it comes to the patient’s perspective. Today, we explore the role of a healthy bedside manner as part of a holistic approach to patient safety and care. The research is in, and it’s definitive: A friendly, honest, and genuine interaction with a healthcare professional does wonders for a patient’s health and well-being.

The Patient’s Voice Counts

Though some physicians chafe at the thought of it, offering short surveys to patients is a critical way to ensure that your organization is meeting your community’s needs. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have established unmistakable links between patient satisfaction and what’s called “compassionate care” – or an amicable bedside manner. The pioneering Partners Healthcare in Boston, Massachusetts mandates that medical residents complete coursework designed to cultivate empathy and compassion at the bedside. And the Cleveland Clinic delivers patient feedback to physicians on a quarterly basis as a way of continuously improving care.

It’s All About Trust

In today’s busy world, most physicians have only a few moments to spend with each patient, so time is of the essence. As such, many patients feel anxious or stressed at their appointments – simply because they understand how precious the time truly is. It’s critical, therefore, to establish a sense of calm any time we interact with patients, whether they’re new to our clinics or not. Patients wait weeks, even months, to see their healthcare professionals, and it’s integral that we give them the attention they require – and deserve.

When a patient feels at ease, they’re more likely to open up, asking questions and offering honest feedback – both keys to a productive provider-patient relationship. On the other hand, if a patient feels rushed or ignored, they’re likely to focus on the insult, not the actual issue at hand – their health. There never seems to be enough time, and it’s the healthcare provider’s challenge to view each patient as a human being, never a number.

From Bedside to Boardroom – A Holistic Approach to Patient Safety

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), there’s a strong correlation between a hospital’s culture and its patient safety improvement. Gary Kaplan, in the Journal of Healthcare Management, reports that without strong leadership, “a culture of safety is difficult to develop and nurture,” implying that the attitudes and culture created by administrators will impact the patient, too. Ultimately, an organization’s leaders are responsible for error mitigation and ensuring patient safety, whatever the cost. Without an impetus to put patient safety at the forefront, any healthcare organization is bound to suffer – and its patients will bear the brunt.

Shifting from Blame to Accountability

Many healthcare providers feel under attack as hospitals move towards surveying patients and requiring empathy and compassion training. Yet the goal should always be made clear: The impetus should always be to improve the patient experience, and to cultivate patient safety across the board. There’s no sense in placing blame or accusing staff members – instead, organizations should aim to create a culture of accountability, in which errors are duly reported and addressed, and patients are encouraged to provide feedback to improve the healthcare experience – not incriminate a healthcare provider.

Ultimately, creating an environment of safety and care may take time – but any efforts towards alleviating patient distress are worthwhile.