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The role of respect in patient safety

A wide array of factors ultimately determines whether or not a patient will remain reasonably safe during his or her medical treatment. In general, patients have the right to a specific standard of care. When facilities or healthcare providers deviate negatively from this standard of care and patient safety is compromised as a result, the affected patient can generally hold any negligent parties accountable for the harm that he or she has suffered.

A recent report indicates that the fairly nebulous concept of respect may play a greater role than previously assumed in the proper execution of patient standards of care generally and patient safety specifically. According to a survey accompanying the report, patients who did not feel respected by healthcare workers during hospitalization were more than two times more likely to suffer a medical error during their stay than patients who did feel respected by their caregivers.

How is respect qualified in such situations? The recent report defines respect in this context as having shown compassion, effectively communicating with patients and acknowledging any mistakes if they occur. This view of respect prioritizes effective, honest and gracious communication with patients. When patients are treated as needing less than this level of communication, and thus respect, it seems that patient safety becomes compromised and medical errors tend to happen at higher rates.

This single report and accompanying survey is not conclusive. However, the information contained within the report are intriguing enough that it seems respect should be additionally explored as an important component of patient safety.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, “Respect: The key to patient safety and preventing medical errors,” Leslie Small, Dec. 16, 2014

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