Patient Engagement and Civility

Patient experience or satisfaction is one of the leading goals of healthcare organizations across the country. Patient experience is very individualized, what one person sees as a positive experience another may interpret as a negative. It has to do with personal expectations in every aspect of delivery. The interactions the patient has with staff and providers as well as the communication, empathy and patient education they receive all set the tone of the experience for the patient. Incivility or rude behavior from caregivers can promote distrust from the patient.A presentation by Carol Santalucia, Vice President of Patient Experience for CHAMPS Healthcare, states that patient complaints are inevitable and should be viewed as a gift. Complaints give us a second chance to make things right. Embrace the opinion and concerns of the patient, listen to what they have to say as this is the chance to change the patient’s perception, resolve concerns and promote care compliance.

In today’s modern technological world, people expect immediate gratification— to get answers to questions immediately. We understand that in a hospital setting, it is rarely this easy. So, how can we give the patient a good experience? Listening, caring and civility is the key.

We must remember that as healthcare staff, we are providing a service. The patient is the consumer of that service. While this process is routine for you, the hospital setting is a strange and unfamiliar environment for the patient. In this environment they have little control or understanding as to what is happening with tests, blood draws, etc. Today, the healthcare team should be engaged in a care discussion with the patient to create a partnership. When there is no partnership and questions are not answered to the patient’s satisfaction, the patient naturally feels defensive.

When we think about patient engagement, we need to also think about civility which defined as “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.” In the healthcare field, it is essential to give the patient your full attention and listen to what they are saying. Having a conversation without interruption and being a good listener helps the patient relax, follow healthcare instructions and hopefully set the patient at ease.

We ask how civility can help patient engagement. In her TED Talk, Christine Porath describes a study by Patrick Quinlan that when you are ten feet away from someone you should have eye contact and a smile when you are five feet away you should give a greeting. This methodology was practiced in a physician office and increased patient satisfaction and referrals. Johns Hopkins Physician’s group promotes nurturing a culture of civility. Dr. Erick Dobkin, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Suburban Hospital states, “For patients and families, that discomfort can damage trust in the institution, prevent communication with clinicians and detract from the patient experience. The implications for patient safety are enormous.”

Patient and family engagement is essential for safe, high-quality care and ideal patient outcomes. Understanding what is important to patients and their families, promoting evidence-based practices, and developing methods for effective communication, is critical for healthcare organizations. This approach can help deliver enhanced care as well as reduce conflict for patients, families, and providers— which in turn allows for civility, better patient and provider engagement, and a stronger culture of safety.