It is not surprising to us that the research reported in the June 1 issue doesnt find significant correlation with patient satisfaction (The bottom line on happiness, supplement, p. 8). In our opinion, the researchers were not using the right variables. The researchers failed to account for the influence on patient satisfaction of spiritual care and attention to cultural practices.
Research studies have demonstrated significant impact of spiritual, religious and cultural practices as well as values and beliefs on healthcare outcomes, including quality of care and patient healthcare decisionmaking. Whether patients spiritual needs were attended to in hospital stays has been demonstrated to be a strong predictor of patient satisfaction with care and patient perception of quality of care. Additionally, demonstration projects have shown that when spirituality is integrated into hospital settings, healthcare professionals find greater meaning in their work and cope with stress more effectivelyagain, contributing to patient satisfaction. Research has also demonstrated that the issues of cultural beliefs, norms and values have significant impact upon a patients and familys understanding of health and their experience of and participation in their treatment. Diversity, cultural, spiritual, religious, language and literacy issues are variables that must be included in any effort to increase patient satisfaction.
We believe that some of the values that did correlate with higher satisfaction are simply surrogates for the fact that those hospitals also attend to spiritual and cultural issues. Such hospitals employ professional chaplains to provide services to patients and family as well as education and support to staff. Conversely, many hospitals seeking to cut costs shortsightedly cut chaplaincy services believing that they do not contribute to mission or margin.
Finally, because many hospitals do not appreciate the contribution professional chaplains can make to patient satisfaction, they fail to align the chaplaincy goals with the overall goals of the hospital, including the patient-satisfaction goals. Professional chaplains are arguably the most cost-effective and underutilized resource for increasing patient satisfaction.
Rev. George HandzoVice president HealthCare Chaplaincy New York
Rev. Susan WintzPresident Association of Professional Chaplains Schaumburg, Ill.