Health staff need better communication: survey

 Richard Hamblin
Richard Hamblin
New Zealand's doctors and nurses have respect for their patients, but urgently need to brush up on their communication skills, new research suggests.

The Health Quality and Safety Commission has collected patient satisfaction data for some time but the new research, released yesterday, looked at people's experience of primary care and averaged it across district health boards.

The survey - in which randomly selected patients are asked to take part and which runs for one week every three months - is used by practices, primary health organisations (PHOs) and DHBs to improve quality of care and patient safety.

The second-quarter survey saw clinicians score particularly well when dealing with patients: 96% of respondents felt their GP or nurse always treated them with respect, while 93% said their GP or nurse always treated them with kindness and understanding.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, only 56% said they were always told what to do if they experienced side effects, 53% said a specialist always asked them what was important to them, and just 37% said they were always contacted after a care plan was made to see how things were going.

The Southern region's results were at or or near the national average, although primary healthcare workers did score significantly better in questions which related to patient's physical and emotional needs.

WellSouth PHO chief executive Ian Macara was surprised at the low score for the question regarding care plans and wondered if the question had caused confusion for some patients.

However, the research had clearly turned up issues which the profession should not and would not shy away from, he said.

"It is an area for us to work on and improve ... the opportunity that is [there] now as the new programmes are being rolled out with health care homes [modernised GP practices being established as part of the PHO's primary and community strategy], that is where you will see communications being improved considerably."

WellSouth would also be putting resources in to improving communication skills in medical practices, Mr Macara said.

"We see this information as an opportunity to improve."

HQSC health quality intelligence director Richard Hamblin said the research provided a window into people's experience of the whole health care system.

"It enables patients to have a voice that the health teams that care for them can hear in a direct and timely manner.

"The survey results will be a vital tool for practices to use in their quality improvement activity to improve patient outcomes."

 

 

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