By Bushra Azhar
Hospitals are large, complicated, frightening places. I, for one, would rather moan, groan and complain my way through an illness than visit a hospital. I know a lot of people who have some degree of aversion towards a hospital visit and least of it is because the hospitals do not have an inviting presence. People will tell you that a hospital is a place of germs, viruses and disease and who wants to go to a dreary ghastly place like that when they feeling bad already?
This dislike, however, runs much deeper than that. Healthcare service providers over the years have failed to earn the trust of their patients, and community in general. They do focus on offering multiple medical specialties, and newer, shinier machines, but these things do not inspire the much coveted patient trust. Let's look at why hospitals are consistently and steadily failing patient expectations.
In the era of WebMD, before seeing a doctor, people read up and often diagnose themselves of various complicated and unheard of diseases. The job of a doctor then is to not treat them like a brick wall but to consider them intelligent, insightful partners in the healing journey. The medical profession is notoriously well-known for its share of medical malpractice and/or misdiagnoses which is often followed by a badly orchestrated cover-up job. If the healthcare service providers want their patients to trust them, it makes sense for them to come clean about any mishaps. Like I mentioned here, medical errors are real and the mistrust of people will continue to rise unless hospitals take concrete steps to talk about where they fell short and how they plan to improve.
Infection and Cross-Contamination
This column in New York Times stuck a nerve with millions. It doesn’t only talk about the carelessness medical professionals exhibit toward effective infection control measures but also the sheer callousness and lack of accountability. What is sad is that hospital-acquired infections are completely preventable and in this excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Simon talks about the new technologies that can significantly lower risk of infection and cross-contamination without being too hard on the bottom line.
Quality and Patient Safety
Whether it is trained medical staff or nurse/patient ratio, or simply a more efficient response, people expect on-your-toes care when they are sick. Sadly, hospitals often do not offer anything remotely close. A 1999 article in The Independent talks about how nurse fatigue and stress can have a devastating impact on quality of care and patient safety. The article may be more than a decade old but some of the issues mentioned there still prevail. Hospitals suffer from severe staff shortages and overtime is a routine matter. In countries where regulators do not take a firm stance on patient safety, the level of trust is much lower in patients. A survey titled The Working Hours of Hospital Staff Nurses and Patient Safety which was conducted on 4,320 members of the American Nurses Association (ANA), revealed that hospital staff nurses worked longer than scheduled daily and more than half of the shifts worked exceeded ten and a half hours.
What Can Hospitals Do to Gain Trust?