If it doesn't directly impact clinical care, is it still worth doing? That's the question I was recently asked while speaking to a physician group.
(Before I go any further, let me say that I welcome having my beliefs questioned. It's one of the benefits of being able to travel all around the country and interact with so many wonderful people. I have many opportunities to learn and to become better.)
Anyway, a physician in the room stated that he did not believe the patient satisfaction survey was of much value due to the fact that it does not impact clinical outcomes. He also felt that a patient could be very satisfied, yet not receive good clinical care.
Let me address the second comment first. I agree. It is possible for patients to rate their care high in a survey and still not receive great clinical care. This is where an organization's values come in. I don't know of any organization that feels good if patient satisfaction is high and quality is not.
The inverse is also true. Many times an organization's clinical quality can be excellent but other issues can lead patients to feel they did not receive excellent clinical care.
My comment the other day to a group of physicians in an academic medical center was, "Let's have the patient's perception of care match the clinical quality you are providing."
Now, let's go back to the challenge that started this blog entry: My first attempt to link the survey to the issue of clinical care was to read the questions. How well was your pain managed? How well were your needs responded to? How well were your questions answered? How well were things explained to you? How well were your home care instructions explained? I explained that I feel each of these can impact clinical care.
The physician disagreed, stating that these issues still may not change the clinical outcome. I then said, "So if a patient's clinical outcome will not be impacted, then you don't want your patient's pain managed? Nor call lights answered?" The physician answered that of course he would want these steps to be taken.
That's when it hit me. While I can connect the dots and also show more research that indicates a connection between patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, the evidence really isn't the point. There are times when even if actions do not impact the clinical outcome, certain behaviors and actions still need to be done.
Hospice caregivers do great work. Do their efforts change the clinical outcome? My first grandchild was stillborn. While the care and support given to my son and daughter-in-law did not change the clinical outcome, were they worthwhile? Yes, without a doubt.
Why do some people fight making some basic changes? I can't take inventory for others, but based on years of experience, I do have some observations of my own.
For some people, it has to do with not being comfortable. If I am asked to do something that I am not comfortable doing and can come up with a reason not to do it, I have found a way to stay in my comfort zone. For others, I believe it is the fear of failure. They would rather not try at all than try and fail. I believe this is one reason best practices are hard to transfer in healthcare.
Some people may feel they are the voice for others. Have you ever noticed when someone is pushing back, he or she may often say, "Everyone," "Most people," or "Others," rather than coming out and saying, "Here is how I feel." Still others may feel they need more data before they can make a change.
It's that last group of people, the data-seekers, who bring me back to the point. How much evidence is enough to make a change worthwhile?
I have come to this conclusion: There are times in life when we do the behavior even though there is not overwhelming research data to support it. We do it because it is the right thing to do. I can think of no reason more powerful than that one.