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Older women more satisfied than men with their hospital care, WKU research says

Older female patients are more satisfied with their hospitalization than their male counterparts, according to new research from WKU.

Dr. Neale R. Chumbler

Dr. Neale R. Chumbler

Patient satisfaction is considered a key source in evaluating health care quality. However, Neale R. Chumbler, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Professor in the Department of Public Health at WKU and the lead author of the study, indicated that assessment of patient satisfaction is crucial because patients admitted to the hospital are usually old, and, in many cases, have multiple comorbidities and pain that may prevent them from experiencing an optimal stay.

“Older patients want not only high-quality-compassionate and responsive care but also a clear explanation of their diagnosis and treatment plan,” Dr. Chumbler said.

Looking at 70 hospitals geographically dispersed throughout the United States that are members of the largest nonprofit health system and using a sample of 6,021 of hospitalized elderly (65 years of age and older) patients, Dr. Chumbler and his colleagues studied the extent to which older adults’ patients’ perceptions differed between elderly female and male hospitalized patients.

He used the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey of older patients who were recently discharged. HCAHPS is a standardized survey instrument for measuring patients’ perspective on hospital experiences and allows comparisons of patient experience in hospitals across the nation. Dr. Chumbler’s research employed the following measures of hospital experience from the HCAHPS — Communication with Nurses, Communication with Doctors, Responsiveness of Hospital Staff, Communication about Medicines, Cleanliness of the Hospital Environment and Quietness of Hospital Environment.

This study is one of a select few studies that examined the relationship between six key hospital attributes and overall patient satisfaction in elderly hospitalized patients and in particular if there were gender differences in satisfaction. It is unclear from the literature on HCAHPS which attributes are correlated most with patient satisfaction among hospitalized elderly patients, according to the study.

Dr. Chumbler found that older female patients reported substantially more positive global evaluations than older men. The results of the study were published in the April-June issue of Sage Open Journal.

“The interpretation of gender differences in patient satisfaction were more complex,” Dr. Chumbler said. After additional analyses, Dr. Chumbler found that communication with doctors was more influential for older male patients while communication with nurses was more influential for older female patients.

The study also found that all six hospital experience indicators were significantly associated with overall satisfaction. “The most important correlate was communication with doctors, followed next with communication with nurses, and responsiveness of hospital staff thirdly. This underscores the significance of how well nurses and physicians communicate with patients and how well responsive hospital staff are to patients’ needs,” Dr. Chumbler said.

“Assessing patient satisfaction and experiences in the hospital are more important now than ever before,” said Mike Sherrod, Chief Executive Officer, TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital. “As a Hospital CEO, finding factors associated with better HCAHPS scores are imperative to identify opportunities that will help our staff provide the best possible care and quality outcomes for our patients. The fact that communication among elderly patients differs by gender is very intriguing and is something we can share with our staff to consider in providing effective patient communication.”

Since patient experience is a distinctive and fundamental aspect of hospital quality, Dr. Chumbler said the results are widely applicable for treating older patients across the United States. Overall assessments of older patients in hospitals can be improved by assuring good communication by nurses and doctors, as well as maintaining responsiveness of staff to older patients’ needs and ensuring clear communication by staff,” Dr. Chumbler said in the Sage Open article. “The bottom line is that hospitals need to have a culture of patient-centeredness that includes clear, concise and supporting communication and compassionate and friendly care to older patients,” he said.

The full journal article is available at sgo.sagepub.com/content/6/2/2158244016645639

Contact: Neale Chumbler, (270) 745-7003

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