Background: A comprehensive, systematic literature review and original research were conducted to ascertain whether patients' emotional and spiritual needs are important, whether hospitals are effective in addressing these needs, and what strategies should guide improvement.
Methods: The literature review was conducted in August 2002. Patient satisfaction data were derived from the Press Ganey Associates' 2001 National Inpatient Database; survey data were collected from 1,732,562 patients between January 2001 and December 2001.
Results: Data analysis revealed a strong relationship between the "degree to which staff addressed emotional/spiritual needs" and overall patient satisfaction. Three measures most highly correlated with this measure of emotional/spiritual care were (1) staff response to concerns/complaints, (2) staff effort to include patients in decisions about treatment, and (3) staff sensitivity to the inconvenience that health problems and hospitalization can cause.
Discussion: The emotional and spiritual experience of hospitalization remains a prime opportunity for QI. Suggestions for improvement include the immediate availability of resources, appropriate referrals to chaplains or leaders in the religious community, a team dedicated to evaluating and improving the emotional and spiritual care experience, and standardized elicitation and meeting of emotional and spiritual needs. Survey data suggested a focus on response to concerns/complaints, treatment decision making, and staff sensitivity.