Report: Healthcare Systems Must Create Means for Patients to Voice Concerns | MedStar Health

Report: Healthcare Systems Must Create Means for Patients to Voice Concerns

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COLUMBIA, Md. —Healthcare systems must create an environment that encourages patients to voice concerns about their care by adopting strategies for encouraging reporting and for responding in real time to address concerns, concludes a report in today’s Annals of Internal Medicine.

The article, “Speak Up! Addressing the paradox plaguing patient-centered care,” states that while health systems employ strategies for encouraging patients and families to speak about concerns in their care, the paradox is that patients’ perceptions of care are often ignored and rarely result in care improvements. The article aims to shed light on the failings of health systems to link patient complaints and other reports of care breakdowns to effect change for the patient, provider and health systems.

“Providing truly patient-centered care is not about getting patients to speak up but rather about health care institutions and providers stepping up and creating an environment in which patients suffering in silence after care breakdowns become the exception, not the norm,” the article states. “To achieve this goal, health care systems and providers must communicate a sincere desire to learn about patients’ experiences, especially when things go wrong, and commit to making things right when patients speak up.”

The article’s authors identify several essential elements in creating such an environment:

• Effective communications with patients • Well-publicized and accessible reporting channels• Direct outreach to patients regarding their care• A means to rapidly address concerns, such as a rapid response team

The authors—Kelly M. Smith, PhD, scientific director, Quality & Safety Research with MedStar Health Research Institute, principle investigator Kathleen Mazor, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and co-investigator Thomas Gallagher, MD, of the University of Washington—are collaborating to address this paradox.

MedStar Health is the demonstration site for programs to foster transparent communications between clinical staff, patients and family members. Under the leadership of Smith and David Mayer, MD, MedStar’s vice president for Quality and Safety, MedStar pilot-tested a program to make it easy for patients and families to report breakdowns in care, encouraging a real-time response. Called We Want to Know, the intensive, multimodal program is being field-tested at MedStar hospitals and is set to spread across the health system in the coming year.

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit