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Patient experience key to improving outcomes: speaker

Jan. 29, 2015, 8:43 AM

Press Ganey’s Christina Dempsey, MSN, MBA, discusses the patient experience during her recent lecture at the School of Nursing. (photo by Steve Green)

Patients who feel included in their care have better outcomes, Christina Dempsey, MSN, MBA, chief nursing officer at Press Ganey, told a large audience at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing during her recent talk sponsored by the Patricia Townsend Meador Endowed lecture series.

“Patients are completely vulnerable, whether in a hospital or ambulatory setting. They are at the mercy of whoever is taking care of them. We take away all of their control,” said Dempsey.

“Patients need to know that their providers and caregivers are working really hard to include the patient in his or her own care. It’s not enough just to be great clinically.”

Dempsey described the patient experience as the clinical care of the patient, the operations of the organization that assure adequate staffing and training, the organizational culture that values patients and the open and transparent communication and behaviors of every person in the organization that demonstrate the mission, vision and values of the organization.

She discussed the two main kinds of patient suffering — inherent and avoidable. Inherent suffering is a person’s response to his or her illness. It is unavoidable, but not un-addressable. The avoidable suffering results from dysfunction in the care delivery system, such as delayed discharges and increased wait times.

To improve the patient experience, she shared best practices of how other health organizations have made meaningful progress in mitigating avoidable suffering, and she also dispelled myths of why organizations don’t focus more closely on this issue. She described the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores that provide data on consumers perspective of their health care and are tied to a health organization’s reimbursement rates.

“Many leaders leap to HCAHPS scores when thinking about patient experience, however, those scores don’t drive improvement,” said Dempsey. “It’s like earning an A in a college course. An A grade means you have received the learning and understand the concepts, but it’s not going to drive improvement. Though we are all bound by HCAHPS, compassionate, connected care is the right direction to go.”

Dempsey encouraged audience members to look for opportunities to better connect with patients.

“Caring transcends diagnosis — the real caring goes beyond delivery of medical interventions to the patients,” she said.

Keith Meador, M.D., MPH, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, whose family endowed the lecture series said, “Christina’s message resonates in nursing, medicine, ethics and all that we do throughout health care. I think everyone in the room left with something that will inform their practice or research going forward.”

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