Health: The weakest link

Many patients said they did not have enough time to talk with doctors about their care and treatment

 

The bulk of health service research focuses on health professionals and disease. Which makes the first ever national survey of patient experience in hospitals in the Republic, carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority, especially welcome.

Overall the patient experience in hospitals here is a positive one. This is especially the case once the person has secured a bed on a ward; around 80 per cent of respondents rated their in-hospital experience as either good or very good. And healthcare professionals were highly rated for their efforts in often difficult circumstances.

The weakest link in the hospital system, with just 60 per cent saying they had a positive experience, was in the process leading up to discharge. Four in ten patients said that they did not receive sufficient information to manage their condition after they went home. This increases the likelihood of someone having preventable complications and requiring unnecessary readmission to hospital.

An almost equal number of participants said that they were not given any written or printed information about what they should or should not do after leaving hospital. This is a basic omission and one that should be quickly remedied by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

These findings around the discharge process confirm the overly dominant position of hospitals in the Irish health system. While often the source of excellent individual care, it is clear that hospitals see themselves as silos rather than as part of a holistic system of healthcare.

Many patients said they did not have enough time to talk with doctors about their care and treatment, while some also had difficulty accessing emotional support. This must be addressed.

Unsurprisingly, some 70 per cent of people admitted to hospital through emergency departments waited longer than the six-hour target for a bed to become available.

There is much in the report for the HSE and the Department of Health to work on. Its findings should be acted on.

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