AMA recognition for eight hospitals with programs to improve communication in health care
Among the many challenges confronting American hospitals today is how to communicate effectively with patient populations that are becoming increasingly diverse. Effective health care communication is critical for informed consent and respecting the dignity of patients, and it is directly linked to patient safety and positive health outcomes.
The American Medical Association (AMA) recognized, as part of the Ethical Force Program's Patient-Centered Communication Initiative, eight hospitals that lead the way in identifying and bridging gaps in health care communication. Gaps in communication can result in organizations and their staff members providing inadequate communications to certain population groups, and may impair health outcomes and lead to health disparities. The recognized hospitals have each demonstrated a commitment to meeting the communication needs of their patient populations and especially those that are the most vulnerable to miscommunication.
This recognition program focused specifically on how hospitals were meeting the communication needs of vulnerable populations with limited or no English proficiency, those whose cultures were not well understood by personnel in the organization, and those with limited health literacy.
Almost 80 hospitals were nominated for their commitment to patient-centered communication and were invited to submit applications for recognition and participation. Of these, 38 hospitals submitted complete applications.
The eight recognized hospitals are:
- Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center, Brockton, Mass.
- Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Wash.
- Iowa Health System, Des Moines, Iowa
- San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, Calif.
- Sherman Hospital, Elgin, Ill.
- University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Va.
- WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Raleigh, N.C.
- Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Selecting only eight hospitals was difficult, but finally was accomplished by balancing the need to choose a range of hospital sizes and types with a range of populations served and focus areas. The selection committee made the selection to include small and large hospitals, teaching and non-teaching hospitals, in urban, suburban, and rural locations, with varying focuses on health literacy, cultural issues, community engagement, interpretation strategies, and other innovations. They also selected hospitals that had programs at various stages of development. Through this program, we hope to illustrate that creating a successful, established patient-centered communication program begins small and progresses through many stages of development, partnering and innovative thinking.
The eight selected hospitals:
- are recognized on the AMA's Web site as hospitals that are conducting innovative and exemplary communication programs.
- received a plaque recognizing their patient communication efforts and their participation in this study.
- are included in a report to the Commonwealth Fund that outlines the promising practices being conducted at the eight recognized hospitals.
- serve as models for hospitals across the country and provide input to the development of quality improvement measures for patient-centered communication.
- received a two-day on-site visit from AMA and Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) staff to discuss "lessons learned" while developing patient-centered communication strategies.
This initiative was being funded in part by the Commonwealth Fund and the American Medical Association Foundation and conducted by the AMA Institute for Ethics in collaboration with the HRET, the American Hospital Association's research and education affiliate.