Easing Patient Fears Can Raise HCAHPS Scores

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media , September 28, 2011

Memorial Health has refined its approach to patient-centered care based on feedback from Sweeney's patient empathy project. For example:

• Memorial volunteers have been recruited to bake cookies near the elevators during the day so the smell fills the building. Staff is then allowed to offer patients cookies.

• A dog has been known to greet patients upon arrival. It helps many patients relax. Even patients who do not care for dogs may benefit; the dog offers a distraction from distress about the visit, Sweeney says.

• Staff no longer assumes that a patient wants a private room. Instead, patients are asked if they would like a private or shared room. Having a roommate can help with patient fear #11: loneliness.

• The practice of saying "good luck" to patients upon admittance is banned at Memorial.

Not all clinical staff is happy about Sweeney's system of addressing patient fear. Eye-rolling nurses and complaints are not uncommon, she says. Most staff complaints center on the time factor –asking about and addressing fear adds a step to a busy nurse's day.

She argues, however, that addressing fear will actually save nurse's time. And if the staff is unwilling, they will not last at Memorial, Sweeney says. "If they don't really care about the patients then they will not last."


Questions? Comments? Story ideas? Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at awebster@hcpro.com.
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6 comments on "Easing Patient Fears Can Raise HCAHPS Scores"

Brittany Howze (10/16/2011 at 9:56 PM)
"eye rolling nurses"....this lady conveys a total lack of respect in one statement. With an attitude like that, I bet she would be extremely afraid to be a patient in her own hospital.

Helon Shoemake (10/5/2011 at 11:28 AM)
Thank you Linda Conner for posting this article. A patient's perceived fear may be irrelevant and magnified[INVALID]none-the-less, it is real and felt fear within the mind of the patient. A few thoughtful, targeted. and caring inquiries can change the entire patient experience and I am happy that health providers are doing just that!

David C. Baker (9/29/2011 at 4:50 PM)
At Meritus Medical Center our clincally-trained chaplains have the time and the mission to ask people how they are and what they are feeling. Acknowledging and addressing their fears is part of the job. Such is one best practice that Spiritual Care Services adopt in our efforts to improve our HCAHPS scores. DCB




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