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Make the Human Connection

Western New Yorkers want providers to recognize they are people as well as patients by showing compassion, empathy and respect for their needs.

How is Western New York Doing?

Western New Yorkers feel relatively positive about how well their doctors and nurses communicate with them on a human level.

Communication is an important measure of "Make the Human Connection," demonstrating how well providers establish rapport with the patient, build an emotional and empathetic connection, attend to the patient's needs and account for the patient's culture, values and preferences. Clear information also engages the patient in shared decision making and supports the patient in self-advocating for their health. Western New Yorkers show high levels of satisfaction when it comes to communicating with their hospital doctors, with about three out of four patients saying their doctors in the hospital setting communicate well by listening, explaining things clearly and showing respect. Yet regional averages for these indicators still fall below national averages.

Health plan customers report similar experiences when evaluating their personal doctors for listening, explaining and showing respect, although those enrolled in commercial plans are more likely to say their doctors communicate effectively than are Medicaid enrollees. Regional averages on these measures are in line with national averages, and in some cases exceed those benchmarks.

Before giving patients new medication, taking time to explain why it is being given and possible side effects supports patient choice and self-advocacy. Patients in the region are not as positive about hospital staff's effectiveness in communicating important information about medications. In fact, this is an area where Western New Yorkers demonstrate some of their lowest satisfaction levels - just over half of patients report that hospital staff always explained new medications before giving them. Within the region there is wide variation in hospital performance, with top hospitals receiving scores over 75 percent, and the lowest ranked hospital at 45 percent.

Satisfaction of Western New Yorkers with time spent with their doctors is mixed.

When patients feel rushed with their doctor, they are less likely to have their emotional needs met or their questions and concerns addressed, which can be important in controlling feelings of vulnerability, anxiety or apprehension. While the majority of Western New York health plan customers say their doctor always spends enough time with them, at least one out of three, on average, felt rushed with their doctor at some point. Medicaid health plan enrollees are notably more likely to experience instances where they may have felt rushed with their doctor, with only 60 percent of Medicaid customers saying their doctor always spends enough time with them relative to 68 percent of commercial enrollees.

Hospitals in Western New York also earned low scores from patients on how well staff respond to their basic needs.

Prompt attention to basic patient needs, such as getting help in going to the bathroom or alleviating pain, is a measure of compassionate care and respect for basic needs, including how well providers work to limit patient discomfort or feelings of anxiety. Western New Yorkers' experiences in this area fall short of the national average of 62 percent, showing the need for improvement, with only about half of hospital patients reporting that they always receive help quickly from hospital staff when they press the call button or need assistance getting to the bathroom or using a bedpan. Wide disparities on this measure are evident across the region's hospitals - the top two hospitals approach 80 percent, but the bottom six hospitals are below 50 percent.

Managing pain experienced by a patient is not only about providing medication - it can be as simple as providing extra pillows. In Western New York, only about two out of three hospital patients say that hospital staff did everything they could to help with their pain.

Make the Human Connection: Performance Comparison

Performance Measures WNY Compared to
U.S. average
Communication with Doctors
Communication with Nurses
How Well Doctors Communicate by Listening (Commercial)
How Well Doctors Communicate by Making Things Understandable (Commercial)
How Well Doctors Communicate by Showing Respect (Commercial)
Communication about Medications
How Often Doctors Spend Enough Time (Commercial)
Responsiveness of Hospital Staff
Pain Management

Data Gaps for this Priority

  • See How to Reach Excellence Together for data opportunities
  • The region lacks...good data on the availability and use of health advocates
  • The region lacks...data on the level of decision making patients are afforded on an outpatient basis, such as during visits with their personal doctor or at a community health center

Chart Legend

Data are from the CAHPS nationwide patient experience surveys of hospital patients and health plan customers, including 24 hospitals and three health plans in Western New York. See Measuring Methods for more information.

- Hospital Indicator
- Health Plan Indicator
- Risk Factor Indicator

- Above U.S. Average
- Same as U.S. Average
- Below U.S. Average
- Average Not Available