Dempsey: Importance of Patient Experience

Patients who feel included in their care have better outcomes, Christina Dempsey, MSN, MBA, chief nursing officer at Press Ganey told a standing-room-only audience recently at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Dempsey’s guest lecture was sponsored by the Patricia Townsend Meador Endowed lecture series.

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; 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 suffering that is a person’s response to his or her illness. It is unavoidable, but not un-addressable. 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 HCAHP (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores that provide data on consumer perspective of their health care and are tied to a health organization’s reimbursement rates.

With data backing up each message point, 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, MD, ThM, MPH, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society and 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.”