While the core of all healthcare services is the promotion and maintenance of health, the key issues and policies affecting the healthcare industry are not nearly as obvious. Industry concerns are continuously shifting in response to changing government mandates, updates in science, socioeconomic developments and the needs of the populace.
What has remained quite stable, however, is the importance hospital management ascribes to patient care and satisfaction.
Patients Consistently a Top Concern for Hospitals
A landmark 2013 survey commissioned by American International Group (AIG), in consultation with patient safety expert and Johns Hopkins Surgical Director Dr. Marty Makary, identified patient safety as the number one concern for hospital management.
The survey polled 250 hospital executives and 100 risk managers and found three major impediments to patient safety in hospitals: a lack of teamwork, a negative hospital culture and poor communication. The report noted that communication struggles resulted from several factors, including nurses’ reluctance to discuss problems for fear of retribution, the number of patient handoffs among hospital staff members, and a lack of clear and concise coordination and communication between hospital departments.
Further complicating the issue of patient safety in hospitals were conflicting perceptions among caregivers and management regarding who is actually responsible for patient safety in hospitals. The report found that, while 98 percent of respondents believed every hospital staff member is responsible for patient care, more than 50 percent felt that nurses are ultimately responsible for patient safety. Ironically, despite the heavy expectations for nurses, these same respondents also stated that nursing staff turnover had little overall effect on hospital safety and patient risk.
What This Means for Hospital Administrators
Clearly, while senior hospital management recognizes the need to prioritize patient safety and care, the real challenges are how to put this priority into day-to-day practice.
When it comes to putting patients first, hospital administrators and management will continue to play a pivotal role. It is not enough for hospital leaders to profess a concern for patient care; they must know how to actually prioritize patient safety in hospitals. Hospital management personnel must have the skills to manage and integrate a complex array of competing interests and duties among healthcare staff at all levels.
It is also vital for hospital management to improve communication between staff and departments and encourage professional caregivers to take ownership of a patient’s recovery and experience. Senior executives must ensure all staff members are clear about their roles and responsibilities, and they must encourage teamwork to improve hospital culture.
Hospital administrators and insurers have much in common, including the shared concern for patient safety in hospitals. According to Russell Johnston, Casualty Product Line Executive, AIG U.S. and Canada, “When insurers work to understand and improve overall healthcare outcomes, it results in patients who experience less pain, a quicker recovery time, and fewer medical complications; return sooner to work and family; and receive prescriptions for the right amount and type of medication, for the right amount of time. Prevention doesn’t cost. It pays.”
By knowing what steps to take to ensure patients get the best care possible, hospital management can lead a medical facility into a successful and prosperous future.